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Jett Superior laid this on you on || January 18, 2006 || 10:49 pm

Long-forgotten chambers of memory

So I was driving three of the kids home tonight when the remnants of a long-ago dream came burbling up, out of nowhere, from the depths. Before I really even knew I was doing it, I was recounting the dream in vivid detail to Sam, Scout and Piper.

It was hypnotic and liturgical; the lot of rowdy teenagers jockeying for the next conversational opening transformed themselves into a rapt, quieted audience as if by magic.

“I was five when I had this dream.

“I was five, and I wore a pale blue shirtwaist dress. We called them shirtwaist dresses; the best way I know to describe them to you is to tell you that they are like the dresses that babydolls wear, with rounded collars and fitted bodices and a fullish, gathered skirt.

“I looked sort of like a nice store-bought doll when I was five: I had shiny flaxen hair that my mother kept pulled back into dogears, I had a thick shelf of rounded bangs, chubby cheeks, small teeth, big blue eyes. You’ve seen the pictures. I wore those babydoll dresses because my parents were somewhat moneyed by the time I came along and they could afford to dress me in fine things for events like church and dinner parties and the like. When I had those shirtwaist dresses on, I also wore patent -real patent leather, not the faux vinyl ones whose straps would crack in two upon the third wearing– Mary Janes and beneath those Mary Janes were fold-down socks embellished with remnants of the fine Irish lace tatted by my Great-Grandmother Elisabeth.

“Yes, Scout, the one I was named for.

“Yes, Sammo, the really mean one. She wasn’t mean for the sake of being mean, though. At least I don’t think so. She had a hard life. I’ll tell you a story about that another time.

“So I was in this dress and the shoes and the socks and my hair was up in dogears. I was perfectly groomed, because we were going to visit my Aunt Jackye, who was and is my godmother. Only, for some reason Aunt Jackye didn’t live three blocks from us, but waaaaay out in the country.

“It was nighttime, so it was dark, and the road we were travelling on was waaaaay out in the country (like I said before), so it was EXtra dark. We were driving in a really large car; it was a Coupe de Ville, I think, and I was in the very middle of the huge backseat while my parents were in the front.

“My fingers traced the ribs sewn into the leather seat while I watched the night-drenched bumps of roadside scenery flick past.

“So we were driving, and then we weren’t…we were just there, at this old farmhouse, and we went in through the back door like good company should. The back door led straight into the kitchen. It looked just like you think a farmhouse kitchen in the seventies should look: It had ugly brown linoleum and a laminate table with aluminum legs and cushy vinyl-covered banana-colored chairs and a rounded sixties sort of refrigerator and printed tab curtains.

“We sat down to a meager but happy dinner of hot dogs and I remember thinking –I specifically remember the five-year-old Dream Me thinking– that Aunt Jackye and Uncle Bob were really living kind of shabby these days. I also remember that it was very surreal, because this was the first lucid dream I’d ever had. A lucid dream is where you realize you are dreaming even as you participate actively in the dream scenario. It was like I was me in the dream, and at the same time I was me watching the dream, all disassociated from it. Even in my dream, I was amazed by this.

“After the hot dogs, there was pie, but I’m not really sure what kind. I don’t think I was sure what kind then, either, only that it was homemade and the crust was full to bursting with a fruit filling. They were thick, juicy slabs, the crusts yawning apart like a gaping mouth barely containing all this sweet, this juice, this utter and complete and fulfilling goodness.

“The pie dishes were cleared away and a card game began in earnest on top of the vinyl tablecloth. The table covering wasn’t there for the meal; it was only put on for the card game, which I thought was strange. Shouldn’t it have been the other way around? I perched quietly on my chair, pudgy knees bent and toes dangling just above the decidedly unattractive brown linoleum. I did as all children in my generation did when they wanted a pass into the inner sanctum of cardplaying adults: I never asked to play (because no, this is a game for adults and no, there’s no partner for you, just hush) and I remained quiet as a mouse as I observed.

“There came the sensation of not being alone there, the five of us (just where was my baby sister, anyway??). Something played an itch at the back of my brain, and I was compelled to innocently lift the vinyl of the tablecloth, scooch down just a tad, and peer beneath it.

“There, under the table, impossibly long limbs covered in floppy dotted material and folded akimbo this way and that, was a clown. He had Bozo’s bright red triangle-points hair, but he had wet, wet eyes and fangs (years later, when I first read the novel ‘It’ and then saw the made-for-teevee movie, something tugged in the back of my brain, but I brushed it away the way you shoo a moth from your face. Then I forgot the shadow of memory again. Until tonight.)

“‘Heh,’ he said to me, ‘heh. I am not here for anyone but you. No one else can feel me but you. If you tell them, they will be able to see me, but they will not be able to feel me like you do. If you tell them, I will eat you, and then I will eat them. I will eat your mother the slowest of all.’

“His voice was tinny and full of deep-toned reverb all at the same time. That voice sounded older than time. Five-year-olds aren’t supposed to know that, to know what ‘older than time’ is, but I had a sense of it, all sudden and complete. Like I stepped through a doorway of automatic knowledge and there it was; I just knew something I hadn’t known a minute before.

“After dropping the tablecloth, I sat quietly still, but my eyes were a little rounder and my back was a little straighter. My fingers laced painfully together in my lap, midknuckles grinding against one another like a little memo to myself to not let my words slip out from between my lips and flop around on the tabletop, mussing the card game and our collective lives.

“A couple of times I raised the tablecloth, and there he still sat, folded squarely and awkwardly between the four legs. Both times he met my gaze (his eyes were glittering hateful stones, shiny and smooth-hard), smiled wetly and brought his knobbly, white-painted and claw-nailed index finger to his papery red dust lips.”

Lost in my own telling, I forgot I was speaking to my children.

“Fucking bully.”

It was here that Scout –the bravest and most unflappable of all those I’ve birthed– shook her whole body, saying “BRRRRRR.” loudly.

“Creep. Eee,” said Sam, and Piper looked as if she’d swallowed a golfball. I expected them to ask me what happened next. None of them did. The subject abruptly changed and we once again took up the laughter that we Superiors often bear as the standard in our daily battles.

I’m glad, because I just didn’t have it in me to finish. Hell, I didn’t know I had it in me to even remember. The brain is quite an amazing little lockbox sometimes.

7 worked it out »

  1. The Dane 1.19.2006

    So, er, what did happen next?

     
  2. Coelecanth 1.19.2006

    I’m 39 fuckn’ years old and I just rolled my chair back to get my legs out from under the desk. That creeped me out to the point where I feel like my viscera has shrank a half inch in from my skin.

    And the cliffhanger ending? NOT HELPING!

     
  3. Jettomatika 1.19.2006

    theDane:

    It suddenly began snowing and we skipped outside, holding hands, to make snow angels and giggle madly. Then we went inside, where my Aunt Jackye made snow ice cream and the announcement that despite the fact that he was a big evil clowndemon who picked on wee girls, she and Bob would TOTALLY adopt the clown. Big evil clowndemon was so very happy that he was satisfied with just picking on small field mice from then on.

    Der.

     
  4. The Dane 1.19.2006

    I thought so. I had the same life once.

     
  5. Suzanne 1.24.2006

    I’ve ALWAYS found clowns creepy as hell – and that just furthers my resolve!

     
  6. becky 1.30.2006

    if i have nightmares tonight, i’m calling YOU.

     
  7. Jettomatika 1.31.2006

    PROMISES, PROMISES, missy!

     

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