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A Song for Aba Chapter 7: Dreaming on Purpose

April 19, 2013

Chapter 7: Dreaming on Purpose

I didn’t eat dinner Tuesday night. In fact if I would not have gotten hungry I wouldn’t have ever eaten again. Mom knew exactly what was on my mind.

“I better not catch you sneaking food upstairs, young man!” You know a parent is full of rotten eggs when she calls you a “young man.”

I adopted what Aba calls my zombie face.

I tried to dream. Nothing. Not Tuesday. On Wednesday, I was supposed to talk to the family counselor. I didn’t. I sat stone-faced, for the whole hour. I didn’t dream Wednesday, either. Mom found me sleepwalking Thursday morning. I had a knife in my hand.

Thursday night, the eyes showed up. Annemarie wasn’t there to help me. “Challenge it,” she would have said so I walked toward that forest and I called to it.

“Yooooo-hoooo!” I cried. “Nyah-nyani-nyah-nyah! Where are you? Get your big, ugly, hemorrhoidal face out here!”

I kept walking. I would walk all night if I had to. Mom was not going to get me up for school Friday without a winch.

“Yooooo, whatever your face is! I’ve faced down tougher bullies than you. Now you come out and tell me what you’re gonna tell me.”

I was deep into the forest when I saw a red glimmer through the darkness. I knew this path – at the end of the trail is where the fishing boat sat to take the Jewish family on its next step to Sweden. Everything was just as it was in Number the Stars. I felt like I had tripped on the root the first time because an unseen force was working on me.

Out in the waking world, the time it took me to cover the half-mile to the dock may have been a nanosecond. In here, it was long enough, and the terrain rugged enough, that even as an experienced hiker I could hear my own breath. As I pushed through the thicket at the end of the trail, I saw the fishing boat, tied right to the mooring where I remembered it. Across the bay the telltale red holes glimmered, gashing the blackness of the night.

“Yoooo-hoooo! Chicken! Come across and let me know your deal. Did you take my dad away? And who are you!? Come on! I am WAAAIIIITING!”

The specter sat across the bay not moving. I realized with a shudder that, although the eyes glowed red, and the lava flowing from its left socket seemed just as hot as ever, there was absolutely no reflection on the water. It was as if one of my classmates had done a crude painting, or maybe a wax etching. A total mystery, but one with its talons embedded in the pit of my stomach. I was not going to leave this world without getting some answers about the one I had come from.

I untied the boat from its moorings. I jumped in the boat, tumbled to my knees to keep from going overboard, and grabbed the oar. It was heavy. Aba would have been more comfortable with it than me. But I was going to rescue Aba, and it didn’t matter that the boat was too big, and that the oar was too heavy. Now if I could figure out whether to sit at the front or back of the boat.

Keep calm, Ezra. Remember that the outboard motor on a powerboat goes on the back. I crawled back to the back bench, and dipped my oar to port (I tipped further leeward than I liked, and no, I didn’t remember that I knew those words). So I put my weight on my left hip, stroked starboard, and breathed a sigh of relief when the boat moved forward and didn’t rock too much. I kept it up. Left hip, right stroke. Right hip, left stroke. I could see the fore tip of my boat lift over the shiny black water. I began to regret all the junk food I secreted up to my room, and the extra cargo weight that was slowing my progress.

Is that my destiny, over there, leering at me through those demon sockets? I was halfway across the bay, I figured, and I still had energy to burn. Let me get a look aft. Behind the boat, the smooth ripples looked like a hundred flocks of geese flying in V-formation. I was in a rhythm now. Stroke right, lean left. Breathe. Stroke left, lean right. Breathe. Look up. Almost there. What now?

I quit rowing about a hundred yards away from the eyes. Far enough away that I can turn the boat and beat it? No, I don’t think so. The die is cast. Let’s have a look at this thing. I didn’t see a membrane. No cornea, red or otherwise. No molten lava. No hissing steam where the angry redness met the water. I recalled a cardinal, then a robin, and thought that to an ant or a mosquito, those red breasts might look angry.

Stroking slower, I approached the red orbs, no longer fiery. The effluent of lava that looked so sinister in the meadow just looked like stepping stones. Maybe they were just tears. I planted the boat parallel to the stepping stones and addressed the cipher again.

“I wrote a poem about you. You know that, right?”

No response.

“Tell me why you brought me out here,” I asked.


“OK, chatterbox, did I dream you or did you dream me?”

Slowly, the magma stepping-stones changed the intensity of their glow.  I touched one of the stones, and finding it cool, tied my canoe to it. I felt an odd mash-up of relief and foreboding as I crawled out of the boat, climbed up on a stone, and started walking toward the left eye.

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