He considered it a sign of his life that this shit happened.
First, he’d outlived his friends and family. Said good-bye to all of them. By the time some died, they’d noticed that his hair remained shiny and full, wrinkles didn’t mar his skin, and that he remained energetic and athletic as a twenty-year-old. “Good genes,” he always said, even to his parents and siblings. “Why didn’t we get those genes?” they wanted to know. “Good question,” he replied.
Now, they were alive again, not because of his good genes, but because he’d awakened back in time. “Impossible,” he told himself.
But there they were. He wondered if he’d have to say good-bye to them again, or would they finally watch him pass away.
Either way, it could be awkward.
Getting ready for Friendsgiving, I selected my attire. I would wear a green vee-neck Tommy Bahama sweater.
I’d bought that sweater the year I moved from Half Moon Bay, California, to Ashland, Oregon, which was 2005. Funny, though, I bought it while on a visit Half Moon Bay to spend Thanksgiving with friends. I bought that sweater a few days before the holiday, and wore it that Thanksgiving. Here I was, thirteen years later, putting it on for another Thanksgiving.
I’d been thinking about my clothes for several previous days before that. The shirt I’d worn earlier that day had been bought in 1998. The one worn the day before was also bought in the late nineties. My shirts, sweaters, and underwear seem to last a while. My jeans and shoes don’t.
I was thinking all of this because I was thinking about cats. I’d moved up with two in 2005, Pogo and Scheckter. Pogo died the following year, killed by a car. His ashes are in our bedroom.
We moved to this new house in 2006, now with just Scheckter. Within three months, we also had Lady and Quinn.
Lady was a rescue. A man I knew through the coffee shop had rescued her. I used to buy him coffee and bagels, and donate cat food to him. Lady had been living behind the movie theater. He started feeding her but it took a year to earn her trust. Now his health was falling and he had to move. Moving meant giving up five of his six cats. He could take one. He had homes for four more. Only Lady, skittish and shy, didn’t have a home.
Then, on a cold, windy midnight, I’d gone out to call Scheckter in. Quinn instead turned up. Since it was a nasty night, we gave him food and shelter. We hunted down his owners and returned him to them, but he kept coming back to us. They moved, leaving him behind.
So, for seven years, it was Scheckter, Lady, and Quinn, three wonderful cats who got along well. 2013 found us losing Scheckter, and then Lady, leaving just Quinn.
Not to worry, though. Three more cats, Tucker, Boo Radley, and Papi (a.k.a. Meep), found us. We were a four-cat family for a while, even though Tucker, Boo, and Papi often fought. As Scheckter and Lady were dying, Tucker showed up and begged for food and help. We tried to find his people but no one claimed him. He had medical issues which took a few years and some money to resolve. Then came Boo, also begging for food, and also unclaimed. Next was Papi.
Quinn remained the sweet lord of the house. He was diagnosed with lymphoma in this past September and died two days before Thanksgiving. He had a strong will until his last four days. I tried keeping him comfortable and helping him, but he finally told me, I’m done. I didn’t want to accept it, but you can’t argue with some things. I cried and let him go.
We’re back down to three cats. They get along better, although there are daily hissing encounters. I couldn’t help but thinking as I dressed on Thanksgiving, I wish my cats would last as long as my clothes.
He’d died, but he didn’t know it. He’d been writing his novel, and then editing and revising it. It wasn’t until he’d finished it that he came up for air and discovered he no longer had a body, and wasn’t a part of anyone’s earthly existence.
As far as he could ascertain, he’d been dead for several months. Probate of his meager estate was concluded, his clothing and personal items given away, and his name moved from one set of records to another. The cause of his death wasn’t clear. It seemed that he couldn’t see that, no matter how he tried to view it.
After some reflection, he wasn’t too concerned. Being dead meant no more concerns about money, health, politics, and the environment. He didn’t need to worry about being killed crossing the street or shot by some madman with a gun. The worst part about his death appeared to be that he was out of coffee.
That was going to put a crimp in his plans. On the other hand, he had a new novel idea.
He couldn’t wait to get started.
The dyin’ man
in the dyin’ land
said with his dyin’ breath,
“Life is a like a buffet.
You can get in line,
and shuffle by,
or decide where you start and end.
“So, if you don’t mind,
I just died,
but this is my beginning,
not my end.”
The dyin’ man
in the dyin’ land
said with his dyin’ breath,
“Life is not a fantasy,
it’s always been a test.
“I’ve done some harm,
caused some alarm,
and failed more than one person.
“I had some dreams,
and made some schemes,
but never found my purpose.
“But now I lay me down to sleep,
I’m about to close my eyes,
say what you will ’bout me,
I don’t care, I died.”
I think of it as the old dream, but I recall it, too, as the star dream and the blue dream. I’ve had it, or some variation, since I was a teenager, at least in my mind. My memories can be faulty, but I seem to remember being in basic training and having this dream, and remembering that I had it when I was in high school, after I moved in with my father. That thought also brings the dream a new label, the transition dream. I seem to dream it when my life is going through a change. I haven’t had it in a long while.
Roughly, because there are slight variations, but this is the dream experienced or remembered last night, I see a ridge of purple-blue bare mountains. A clear sky is shifting from azure to indigo.
At first I see a single, amazingly bold, bright star above the mountains. Then, I’m on a mountain.
I’m looking at my hand. I’ve made a fist around a cold chunk of lapis lazuli. A large piece, although it’s been tumbled and is smooth, one end is rough. I always think, it was tumbled, and then broke in half.
After seeing the lapis in my fist, I look up. The sky has darkened into a shade of midnight blue. Millions or more stars and galaxies light the sky. It’s so amazing, it transfixes me into staring and wondering about all the existences beyond now.
The dream ends.
I always feel young but pensive in this dream, and elated but thoughtful when I awaken. I don’t know what change I’m going through now. I’m not moving or starting a new job. One of my cats is probably dying (I’d be surprised if he’s alive when this year ends), but that change affects him more than me. I can argue, though, no, it’s the survivors who remain behind after another dies who are more affected (as far as we know), because we, left behind, are dealing with a void.
Writing about it helps me think and understand. I remember thinking the other day, in a moment of pique, crystallizing a decision that I am re-inventing myself. Perhaps I’ve triggered some internal change, summoning the dream.
Maybe it’s all just wistful thinking and vivid imagination. Perhaps that’s all life is.
I had multiple dreams last night. Most remain in pieces in my mind like debris after a storm. The essences:
- I was plotting a murder and intent on carrying it out. I don’t know who I was killing or my motive.
- A cat was the size of an American nickel. A happy little animal, he was kept in a jar. I watched over him, ensuring he wasn’t lost or injured, and played with him.
- The third dream found me playing a game that may have been a show on television. I was winning by answering questions and advancing through levels. It seemed to combine physical prowess and the ability to answer questions.
Not much further information is available on the murder dream. Awakening and thinking about it, I attribute it more to my writing muses than an intention to kill another person. I’m always thinking about escaping, surviving, killing, investigating, flying, traveling, exploring, and robbing places. They’re exercises for my imagination, IMO.
The cat dream was a simple anxiety dream. Quinn hasn’t been well. His breathing bothered us. We’d endured a summer of wildfire smoke and hazardous air, so I put his breathing problems down to that. We’d been keeping him inside and addressing his breathing issues. When he didn’t improve after the air improved, I thought I’d take him in for an antibiotic shot.
But the vet found a lump on Quinn’s neck, so we’re going through the challenge of treating him, keeping him hydrated, and feeding him. We’re not certain of his issue, yet. Never a large cat, he dropped two pounds and now weighs just five. He’s mostly perky, though, but not eating and drinking enough on his own. I take comfort and hope in signs like him rubbing up against me, jumping on my lap, stretching, trying to claw furniture, and yawning.
Meanwhile, I’m going through the process of letting him go. I’ve endured this with other pets, so I understand some of the emotional, physical, and intellectual dynamics. It’s always different, of course, and it’s never easy.
I enjoyed the game show dream. First, you’d press a button to start the big wheel spinning, and press the button again to stop it. The big wheel had activities and numbers. If it landed on the activity, you did it. Doing the activity, such as twenty push-ups, authorized you to rob a competitor by taking a token or moving them back by a spin on the punishing wheel.
If the big wheel landed on a number, that was the number of spaces you’d move. Climbing, crawling, jumping, and swinging on ropes were required to move along squares. After moving forward and stopping on a square, you were asked a question. Fall to answer it correctly — it was timed, but you had three chances — meant you faced the punishment wheel.
Come to think of it, there was a television audience cheering us on. Writing about it today prompts comparisons to an updated game of Life combined with Trival Pursuit, which sums up my writing life, I think.
Spinning wheels, killing time, chasing trivia, and hoping to advance, it’s a writer’s life.
Emphysema, they told him. Eyes twinkling, he chuckled with charming nonchalance (gasping for air when he did), because that was his style, and because he already knew. “Tell me something I don’t know,” he said after the chuckle, although the panic in his gut said, “This is no joke.”
They put him on all that shit, and gave him oxygen to suck on, and advised him of the things that he must give up. He gave up the shit and kept the rest. Yeah, there was unbearable pain every day and hour, but it was the loneliness and regrets who were the killers.