Sweet Dreams

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By Dustin Tyler

 

“Testing, testing, is this thing on?”

The guests smile and some even chuckle as my now brother-in-law delivers the first line of his best man speech. At about nine this morning, while I was shaving and hoping the bender I went on last night wouldn’t effect how my suit fit, Jonathan sat in the corner of my hotel room pressed up against the window which overlooked a parking lot, finishing up the speech. He chuckled to himself the entire time as he moved the pencil from the paper to his mouth and back again.

It was almost like he was picturing himself in a film, playing the lovable but constantly-getting-in-trouble brother of the bride. Truthfully though, he’s not that type of character. He’s a great guy, handsome and well spoken with a degree in economics and a green belt in children’s karate.

Hours before his speech started, I married his sister. I knew I shouldn’t, but I did it anyway, feeling guilty the entire time. She sits to my right and has a smile on her face so large, you’d think she just found her Prince Charming; in her eyes, maybe she did.

When we took our wedding pictures outside the church and reception hall, the photographer had to keep reminding me to smile. She doesn’t deserve this. She deserves someone who isn’t hiding half of himself from her. Someone who wasn’t always deceiving her and taking advantage of her kindness.

“Sleep over tonight,” I hear her say in a memory. “I work early tomorrow,” I say, hoping there won’t be a followup question. That was about three months into what is now a four year relationship. The longest I’ve ever had. Two weeks ago, following a particularly engrossing Mel Gibson film, she asked for the four hundredth time in our relationship: “Stay over?” I can’t think of another excuse, so I stay up the entire night, watching her as she sleeps peacefully, wondering if our whole marriage will feature me as an insomniac. I haven’t had a good nights sleep since then. My conscience is an alarm clock with no snooze button.

The crowd of guests roar, as Jonathan makes another joke, one I didn’t even hear. “But seriously, I can’t remember the last time I saw my sister this happy,” he continues.

I can’t take it anymore.

“I hope your marriage is as great as the…”

“Stop!” I yell. I stand and grab the mic as Jonathan looks at me, my wife looks at me, the flower girl looks at me. I make eye contact with none of them but feel each of their stares. “I can’t do this anymore. I’ve been living a lie. Deceiving all of you.”

My wife is standing by me now, already crying as she asks me what I’m doing. I still don’t look at her.

“I didn’t want to lie. I wanted a kind of life you see in the movies, a wife, kids, friends, all of it.” I sip from a cup of water. “But not this way.” I finally look my wife in the eye—the woman I’ve been lying to for four years—and confess. “I’ve been sleeping…with a sleep mask. It’s black like a blindfold with a strap in back. It keeps light out of my eyes. I’ve used since I was ten years old. I need it to fall asleep at night!” I admit it and for the first time all day, I feel like I can breathe.

It’s short lived. Suddenly a metal serving tray is hurled in my direction. I deflect it with my hand and as I do, I spot the waiter who threw it. He’s an older man, grimacing and running at me full speed from across the room. I hear a loud thump. It’s my wife fainting, and before I can assist her, Jonathan begins throwing his children’s karate moves at me. A kick, followed by a punch. I wonder why they both hit my hip, then remember he stopped training as a 4’0 eight year old. He only ever practiced his moves on an instructor, who stood 6’4. He is now unable to throw anything higher than what he could when he was a child. He’s grunting as he attacks me, using as much force as he can. I grab the chair I was sitting on when he began his speech and use it as a shield, deflecting his blows and eventually knocking him off balance.

The waiter is still charging me, but he’s not the only one. The women in the crowd are split; half running to my wife, the rest using their purses as bows and dining rolls as arrows. I hop over the the table and try to run through them. I don’t want to hurt anyone else, emotionally or physically. I spin like a football running back, making it about ten feet from the table when I’m caught and overpowered. A pile forms on top of me. Women, children, men, staff from the hall, all jump in. Overhead, I must look like I’m buried under a mountain of people. I feel pain on every part of my body. I can’t breathe. But suddenly I realize, it’s pitch black. I can’t see anything under the mound of people. It’s as dark as when I’m wearing my sleep mask and without the burden of being a liar, without feeling like I’m hiding who I am, I calmly fall asleep.

 

Body Part Bags (and the Parts That Come in Them)

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By Todd Mayhew

My chair is pulled out a little from my desk and there’s a brain on it. It’s lumpy and dark red—so dark it’s almost black, and its curves have white worms of light reflecting on them from the lamp above. It’s been there ever since last month when I called the police and told them that Ellie the elderly lady next door was cutting people up into little meat cubes and hiding them in her kitchen cabinets, and the police came and yelled at me because that turned out not to be true.I told them it was an honest mistake, that it was dark and shadowy when I saw her moving around in there and maybe she was just chopping up the zucchini for the bread she baked for me and brought over right before I called them. I said that I was very sorry and that it’d never happen again. I started to explain why I was so sure I wouldn’t do it again, but the cop started fidgeting, stepping side to side, playing with his belt buckle then cut me off and said, “Fine, fine,” and shook his head muttering something and turned away.

What I was trying to tell him was that I was gonna put the little brain there on my desk chair so that if I saw her chopping again and wanted to go dial 911 again I would run over there and see the brain in the chair and not want to sit down to dial and then go do something else.

I learned how to do this from my mom who used to live here with me before retiring to Florida. She had gotten very paranoid about my father cheating on her with his Asian receptionist. He’d never said anything about her in particular, but once had mentioned that a similar looking woman on an eyeglass commercial had lovely eyes. (I thought that was a little weird since it was hard to see them with the glasses on that they were advertising, but my mom said at the end she took them off and that’s when my father perked up in his recliner, making the comment.)

My mom spoke to the assistant eventually at the company picnic. She was wearing a bright yellow sun dress and sitting cross-legged under a pavilion, at a picnic table. As soon as my mom caught sight of her, she pushed past my father, and face bright bright pink, stormed over and screamed, “Is that ice in your drink or lovely EYES in your drink?” Nobody understood except me what that meant, but I grinned and nodded proudly.

After her third uneventful bicycle trip downtown to peek in my dad’s office window, though, she and I both agreed it was time to stop. If he wanted to mount some slut on his desk that isn’t even in an eyeglass commercial, let him.

“Help me,” she said later, dragging a giant plastic bucket up the driveway. Together we lifted it and spilled the ten gallons of blood inside it all over the bike. It was pretty the way it ran over the handlebars and made a red waterfall, but I was afraid if I said anything, any time I saw a bicycle with blood on it, my mom would get paranoid that I was gawking at it like my dad did with the eyeglass lady.

“There,” she said. “Next time I want to spy on your lousy cheat father, I’ll run over to the bike and see the blood on the seat and won’t want to sit down to ride, and then I’ll go do something else.”

It was the most valuable lesson anyone has ever taught me.

I push the thick black bag that the brain came in out the window above the sink and onto the pile of others outside in my backyard. I’ve been putting off doing this for weeks because the bags are so gross and sticky. All the parts come in them. The doctors in the teaching hospital behind our house throw them into the blue Dumpster with the bio-hazard logo on it. I never asked if I could take them, I just assumed I was doing a good deed. Whoever donated those parts wanted them to go to good use. And though I’m sure they’d be glad they were helping teach medical students, I bet they’d be really delighted to know they got even more use around my house!

I rinse the blood and grime and what I assume is some kind of spinal fluid off my forearms and down the drain then turn off the faucet and sit down on the couch (my recliner has lungs on it to prevent me from sitting there and tipping backwards against the ground causing a concussion again). I turn the TV on to Mr. Pat Sajak with a warm smile asking a fat teacher what she does in her spare time. (The volume is off, but I’ve seen this one before and remember it), and I say the words along with the lady, “I’m really interested in genealogy, and I love cats!” I pause and rewind and double check my response with the volume up. Genealogy and cats! I was right!

It is at this point that I smell something smokey. I stand and move around, nose up in the air sniffing till I come to the stairs and see a big black cloud hanging near the ceiling. An orange glow emanates from behind it, somewhere down the hall by my bedroom.

Oh no!

There is a fire extinguisher at the top of the stairs. I can see it from where I stand, but the intestines tacked to the walls of the stairwell block me (I made a web of them there the one time I tripped climbing the steps). I whirl around and dash toward the front door. I suddenly stop as I reach out for the knob, though. A pair of eyeballs hangs there that I put up after opening the door and getting stuck talking to a Jehovah’s Witness yesterday.

And that just leaves the phone and the little red brain. If I’d only Ellie my elderly neighbor had been more careful not to look like a murderer, I could have sat down on my chair and dialed the fire department right now. But no, some people in life are selfish and now there is a brain in my chair and I have no choice but to die here in an electrical fire.

With a distressed sigh, I sit back down on the couch. I only hope and pray that my parts can be used in someone else’s house to prevent them from tripping, or tipping back in their recliner, or answering the door for people they don’t want to talk to.

Chiromancy

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By Dustin Tyler

I had a dream last night about red balloons rising over a beautiful skyline. I didn’t see them get released—they were just in-mid air and I was a silent observer, slowly following them higher and higher until we were past the tallest buildings and the sounds from the street below went silent. It was the most peaceful dream of my life, the most peaceful moment, and it was fake. Before I woke up, I tried to reach out as far as I could and grab just one balloon, but somehow, someway I knew I couldn’t. That’s how I knew that you would be gone when I woke up.

.You’re always leaving me. It doesn’t matter if it’s a warm summer night filled with lightning bugs and hope, or amid a bitter snowfall that blankets desire. I use only my elbows to get out of bed. The sheets are disheveled and my alarm clock is in pieces on the dusty wooden floor, the alarm silenced; you’ve had quite the head start.

I put my feet in my slippers and head to the door, which is thankfully ajar. As I sneak downstairs I can’t help but hate you for a minute. This disappearing act is old and because of it I’m on high doses of antidepressants and seeing a shrink weekly. He tells me it’s not the end of the world. He tells me maybe it’s time I let you go. He tells me how I’m to blame as well. For not taking good care of you.

And I know he’s right. But I’ve done so much better lately. I’ve smoothed over the rough edges and tried to heal you from your worst.

I search the bottom level of the house and see signs of where you’ve already been. There’s an open newspaper sitting on the kitchen table and plates covered with lingering crumbs. In the living room, the television is on, set to a channel where a pale-skinned old man sits at a piano hitting the keys with pristine timing and a speed that seems faster than light. Amusing, really.

It’s here that I see the jelly stains on the window sill. I move closer and realize this is where you crept out. This is the exit that you used to leave me. And this time you aren’t coming back. My therapist told me this would happen. He said so after the first time he saw you. Said you were easy to read.

I look out the window and it’s raining. Tiny drops falling on a sad house, contrary to my dream of balloons rising over wishful clouds.

In the dream, I couldn’t grab the balloons and I now can’t cup the raindrops because my hands have left me and now I am alone.