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Chapter 11 from COMFORT, A NOVEL "The Dream"

Updated: May 15, 2022

Phone call inquiry from male with the very thick, Long Island accent “My name is Howard and I wanted to know if you ever get paid to dominate someone over the phone? My credit card isn’t working but I can send money to you through Western Union…”

Me: “Howard I don’t do that and you’ve called me several times before and wasted my time. Why do you keep on calling me? Something is wrong with you. You’re obsessed. Please stop friggin' calling me!”

Howard: “F--- you.”

August 2, 2012

That night, in a dream, he sees his Mother transformed.

He is sitting in the passenger seat of a car in the parking lot behind their old apartment on South Lake Drive in Cudahy, Wisconsin. It was where they lived when he attended high school. His Mother is dragging something from the neighboring apartment building over to their apartment. He someone knows the thing she’s dragging is her own death. There is a pecking chicken by the back door, nervously and nonchalantly searching for food. Is that a symbol of him, obsessing over his inheritance?

"Do you need help?" he calls to her. She is younger, hot and in her fifties. She is wearing red Capri pants, a gingham blouse tied at the waist and has her hair wrapped in a scarf. She looks like Annette Benning from "The Grifters."

"No Steve I'm fine," she says, turning her head and smiling back at him.

He loves how she looks, sexy, free, and totally immune to judgment. She is a truly liberated woman, not an uptight, Republican caricature of one. She looks fun, a bit daring and he knows instinctively that she is his friend, that they can talk, laugh and be cool together. He knows too that precisely because she is liberated, that she’s more self-sufficient. She is no-longer Old Mom, a child-woman who needs him to protect her; nor does he need to confess anything to her. New Mom would even laugh at that one. New Mom is friendly but tough. The only boundaries she crosses are about sharing joy. He knows then, in this dream that of all her personas, New Mom is the one he adores the most. She is a distillation of all the best traits he ever experienced from her. New Mom is the one he longs for, the one he wants to hold in his memory. The one he wants to create. New Mom is confident and stronger than Old Mom, not a blood-sucking succubus, but a beautiful, fellow Greek. An adventuress and a risk-taker like the goddess Diana. New Mom is his equal. She is not needy, and can imbue him with enough nurturing to show him the way to becoming the strong and whole self he was meant to be. New Mom can give him that secret ingredient that Old Mom was incapable of; confidence, and a security, and a will to trust his own intuition first, before anyone else’s.

Up the alley he sees rusted advertisements and broken signs from motels displayed along a vanishing highway. Haunted, deserted motels along the road of their lives where they’ve stayed, summer vacation after summer vacation, move after move. These are the places of incest, violence and addictions in his family history. They are the places without love, the places of absent or cruel parents, the suicides and nervous breakdowns. The sad and forgotten aunts and uncles and cousins of all the past generations of his family tree he never knew, the children he will never have; family ghosts, past, present and future.

Now he is their car, sitting in the passenger seat. She gets in the driver's seat and turns on the ignition. They back out of the parking space. As they stop at the end of the alley, he can just make out a sliver of Lake Michigan on the right, like a distant, grey ocean. A huge RV slowly rides by, heading west up the hill away from the lake.

"That's a Night Crawler" she says, "It's bigger than a double-wide. You can drive it anywhere." A night crawler, a worm, another symbol for death. Was this RV similar to the one that Nina, her sister, was crushed in? That happened only a short a short week after she had visited Mom to console her, shortly after Duane, her first husband and his father died marking the end of their family in the early 70’s.

"Yeah" he says, "As long as the road's big enough." They laugh like carefree lovers or friends.

They are on South Lake Drive heading north toward Milwaukee. On a steep hill she takes a sharp left.

"Short-cut" she says. Again he perceives New Mom is adventurous and likes to take chances; Old Mom was never the short-cut type. She turns the car and they drive over a hilly saw to an overgrown, grassy, unused road. They drive on this road, bumpily down another hill passing what looks like an abandoned gambling casino. In the overgrown ditch by the side of the road are lots of greenbacks partially covered with dirt. He can see them from the window. He is amazed that that no one is collecting them. They are just sitting there, ripe for the taking. “Mom, why don’t you stop the car so I can get out and collect that money?”

"Counterfeit" says his Mom, continuing to drive. "Careful, they check the serial numbers around here." She is like a friend or a fellow pirate. She's doesn't nag or try to control or belittle. He feels their bodies are relaxed and free as if they are two friends just hanging out and it’s cool. The weird uptight tension of Old Mom is gone. It was never an option to hang out with her unless they were playing Scrabble. These are the same, new elements in her he is experiencing now, that he began to experience in their daily check-in long distance calls leading up to his arrival in Tucson. As she is dying, she is becoming more of a real person; although because she is dying in real life, she’s not as much fun as she is in the dream.

Miles later, she turns, parks the car and gets out. Leaning against it, she lights up one of the fattest joints he’s ever seen. It looks almost like a cigar but it’s really bamboo stick. He smoked them when attended school in Kuala Lumpor, Malaysia, his Sophomore year in college.

She inhales, slightly holds her breath, then exhales. "It helps with the pain,” she says, passing it to him. He takes a hit. What pain? he's thinking, is she sick? Does she even have cancer in this dream?

A car pulls up and stops in the alley ahead of them about 100 feet away. Steve can see three

people in a convertible. They wave hello and Steve and Pauline wave back. Everyone is smiling. It looks like they’re lighting up too.

Dream Mom is living fun. She is without worries and always in the moment; she is courageously compassionate, and she is a guide, introducing him to the land of Death. And he is discovering that in this strange “moving on” place; anything is possible. Anything. And any freedom.

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