Friday, October 06, 2006

For Cathy

A flash of anger went across his face. With no warning, Fred’s whole day had changed. What had started as a drive in the country had now turned into a visit to the dark lord himself. “How could this be? Why would this happen to me?” He thought.

Slowly he opened the door and walked to the front of the car. The cow lay dead in front and blocked his way to help. Fred shook his head and sighed. “I didn’t even hit it that hard. I thought I had stopped in time. What was that cow doing in the middle of the road anyhow?” The cow just lay there, silent, unmoving.

He had been warned about this, in a sense, by a dream he had just two nights before. In the dream he had been flying over the city wearing only his underwear and a bandana on his head. He was suddenly surrounded by a herd of cows – all flying chaotically around him. He swerved up, down to avoid them, but they kept on coming. In the background was the sound of barking. The barking was not the happy barking that greeted him at home in the form of his dog Sparky, it was an evil-sounding bark. The coldness of the sound froze him to his soul.

Boom! He ran into one cow, which fell to the ground. Boom! Another cow. Soon he could not avoid hitting cows and they each fell perilously to the ground, landing on homes, cars, and people. Screams rose from the ground as the cows continued to fall, but Fred could not avoid them. The sound of screams rose, but the evil sound of barking was never lost in the din.

Fred had awakened with a start and with the faint smell of bananas lingering in his head. What had this dream meant? He asked his wife, but she just suggested going up on his lithium dose. He asked his friend Harold, but he was distracted by some sad story about a dead llama in Oakland. Harold liked llamas a lot, so Fred knew he just had to find someone else to help.

Finally he went to his pastor, Brother Pete, who had played a very important role in Fred’s finding the job at the suction-cup factory. Pete would understand.

After having the dream related to him, Brother Pete scratched his chin and thought. “I remember when my brother Barney had a dream like this. Boy, was that ever a strange dream! He was covered in taco sauce and licked by cows and dogs who were singing Jewish folk songs.”

“Really? What happened to him after that dream?” Asked Fred.

“He was arrested for public nudity. Yeah, he was sleep walking and went out on the street and stripped naked so he could get the taco sauce off of himself and escape the cows and dogs. A neighbor saw him and called the police. They didn’t believe his story and thought he was some kind of drug addict.”

“So what does that have to do with my dream?”

“I have no idea,” answered Brother Pete, “but it sure was a hard thing to tell our mother why he was not there for Thanksgiving. Anyhow, I don’t think you have anything to worry about with this dream. People have dreams about flying cows and barking dogs all the time, and they are just fine. Really, it is one of my most common areas of counseling. I was going to preach my next sermon on it, using the text about the dog returning to his own vomit. It’s one of my favorite verses.”

Fred left Brother Pete more confused than when he came. Does everyone really dream about this? How come I have never heard of it before? He walked along the quit streets of the town thinking to himself. His quiet thoughts were interrupted with a sound.

“Psst! Hey, you…guy with the funny slouch.”

Fred felt indignant. “I don’t slouch! I have great posture!”

“Yeah, yeah, they all say that. Come over here!”

“Where are you? I can hear you, but I can’t see anything.”

“Over here, at the holly bush.”

Fred walked cautiously toward the bush and looked carefully. Two yellow eyes stared up at him from the bramble.

“Don’t come any closer. I can’t let them see me. I have some alarming news to tell you. You are being watched by some shady characters.”

“What, me?” asked Fred. “Why would they be following me?”

“You carry information that some very powerful people want to get hold of. Did you have a strange dream lately?”

“Well, yes. How did you know?”

“That’s not important,” replied the voice, still in a whisper. “That dream contained information that can put some very powerful people behind bars for a long time. They want to get you and I am here to tell you how to escape.”

Fred stood motionless. Was he to trust this strange voice and the strange information it gave him? How did it know about the dream? “Who are you?” Fred asked, hoping to get some glimpse of the face behind the voice from the bush.

“That’s not important. What is important is that you follow my instructions closely. Your life may depend on it. Tomorrow at exactly 2 PM, tell your wife that you are going to the grocery store and take your car out to Old Foonman Road toward the quarry. When you cross the old canal, turn right onto the dirt road that goes alongside the canal. Someone will be there to give you further instructions. That is all I can tell you. I am gone now!”

“Wait, I need to know more!” Fred cried out, but the voice was gone and only silence remained.

That night, he slept restlessly. Would he have another dream? Should he follow the instructions given to him by that mysterious voice in the bush? What about the Jewish folk songs?

He awoke that morning again smelling the faint odor of bananas. His wife was in the kitchen when he walked in. “I smell bananas. Are you cooking something?”

“Fred, have you cut back on your lithium again? I told you to stay on the dose doctor Richardson recommended.”

Fred ignored her remark about the lithium. It was always her way out of difficult questions. He was used to it.

When 2 O’clock came around, Fred nervously told his wife he was off to the store and left before she could make another comment about lithium. He drove cautiously down Old Foonman Road and across the old canal. He turned onto the dirt road. Where was the person with the instructions? Fred looked around to find this person. When he looked forward again, he was suddenly confronted by the imposing figure of a large cow. He slammed on his brakes, but could not avoid hitting it. The cow fell to the ground with a great thud.

As Fred surveyed the damage, he heard a rustle in the trees next to his car. From the woods there came the racing figure of a dog with a small monkey on its back. The monkey was wearing an army helmet and smelled vaguely of bananas. He heard a loud laugh and an evil-sounding bark as the dog leapt through the open door of his car. The cow suddenly jumped up and ran to the side of the road. The door slammed shut and the dog hit the gas.

“Wheeeee….! See ya later, sucker! They fall for it every time!”

This yell came from the lips of the dog. He recognized the voice. It was the same one who whispered to him from the bush the night before. The car sped off as the dog and monkey sped off down the dirt road in his car. Fred saw the car swerve to the left, then to the right. Finally the car flew over the bank of the canal and into the water.

Fred ran to the edge of the water and watched as the dog and monkey narrowly escaped from the car as it sunk to the bottom of the canal. “I told you not to trust the dog’s driving,” yelled the cow to the monkey, as the primate swam to the far side.

Fred’s head spun with the rapid events of the last minute. That dog had tricked him into bringing his car out here. The cow and the monkey were in on it too! That dog had lied to him so that he could steal his car!

He started sobbing quietly to himself. “What has my life come to? What will I tell my wife?”

He was an innocent victim of a lie told in silence....