At an old bookstore, you find a book that helps you interpret your dreams. But something is strange about it. You fall asleep reading the book, and find yourself in a dream that you cannot wake up from. What is it? And how will you snap back to reality?
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I wrote this the evening my father died. It doesn't exactly match the prompt, but it's really no further adrift than many other stories that get posted.
The book drops into my lap as I transition into the dream. I realize I’m no longer in my room, but behind my parents’ house. The mosquito netting around the little gazebo on the deck is still there, and my father is sitting on one of the lawn chairs with his after-supper coffee.
“Would you like to set and talk?”
“Sure. It’s good to see you again.”
We talk of politics and finances, the local and national news, and the other things a father talks about with his adult son. We talk about his years of service in the forces, and he reminds me that nobody has to fear the Sergeant Major if he hasn’t done anything wrong. I still get a chuckle from that. He doesn’t talk to me about sports, because he knows I don’t have a clue there.
It’s not that long a chat – at least it didn’t seem very long, but the sun has set when he stands up to go in. Somehow I know I can’t follow him.
“Dad, how are you here? Why are you here?”
“It’s just another chance to say good-bye, son. You know I’m proud of you.”
“I’m proud of you too, Dad. It’s good to see you like this, not …” Not the way he died, his body withered by ALS, leaving him bedridden and unable to even breathe. They diagnosed it far too late, but I understand that even knowing beforehand wouldn’t have helped. Incurable and untreatable.
“You have to keep on, son. You and the girls take care of your mother. The woman I love.”
“I will, Dad. We always have to keep going.”
“Good bye, son.”
I don’t answer. Maybe if I don’t say good-bye he’ll still be here when I come back tomorrow.
* * *
In memoriam: Jerry Smith. February 15, 1935 – September 25, 2013.