Visionary (Part Three)

Today, we learn the fate of Claire and her family, introduced to you in Monday’s Micro-Fiction Monday…

*     *     *

“Visionary”
Part Three of Three
By: Rachel Carrera

Three weeks later, the Keene house was abuzz about Van’s upcoming business trip to Elmhurst.  Billy grinned.  “Dad, will you bring us back a present?”

Susie hugged Van’s neck.  “Daddy, be sure to send us some picture postcards.  I’ve got some three cent stamps you can take with you.”

Van stood and straightened his tie.  “Of course I’ll send you postcards and bring you gifts, kids.  And what would your mother like me to bring home?”

Tears shimmered in Claire’s red rimmed eyes.  “I’d like you not to go, Van.  Please change your plans.”

He rolled his eyes.  “Kids, it’s time for bed.  I’ll see you in the morning at breakfast before I leave.  Goodnight.”  After the kids went upstairs, he gently grabbed his wife’s shoulders.  “Claire, we’ve been all through this before.  I have to go.  It’s for work.  Nothing’s going to happen to me.  Now, would you please calm down?”

Her body quaked.  “I can’t!  Van, I’ve had the same dream all week long.  You can’t go!  If you do, you could be—”  Tears spilled down her cheeks as she buried her face in his chest.

He sighed and patted her back.  “Hon, I don’t know why all of a sudden lately you think you’re some sort of soothsayer, but I couldn’t get out of it if I wanted to.  The Smithfield account depends on me making this trip, and Mr. Watley left it in my hands.  If I can secure this account, I could get a promotion, then we’ll be set.  Besides, don’t you see I have to go now to show you that there’s nothing to those dreams of yours?”

She buried her face in her hands and gritted her teeth as she put her back to him.  “You can’t.  You just can’t…”

*     *     *

The following morning, Claire’s eyes were bloodshot as she spooned up four bowls of oatmeal.  A loud crack of thunder made her gasp and jump just as Van and the kids entered the kitchen.

Van peeked out the window.  “Wow.  That’s gonna be some gully washer.  I hope when I get on the road, I can outrun this storm, and it doesn’t rain all the way to Elmhurst.”

Billy stuffed a bag of marbles in his pocket and flopped in his seat.  “How long is it to Elmhurst, Dad?”

“Six hours.  Don’t worry; I’ll call when I get checked into the hotel.”

Susie smiled a faraway smile.  “Imagine, a luxury hotel.  You’ll probably have room service, and valets, and everything!  Daddy, that’s just so… dreamy!”

Van chuckled and eyed Claire who was looking down.  He frowned.  “Aww, come on, Hon, lighten up.  I’ll be home in four days.”

She silently shook her head and stirred her oatmeal.  “Never mind me.  Just do what you have to.”

He exhaled loudly.  “Kids, go get your teeth brushed and gather your books.  I’ll drop you off at school on my way.”  As they made their way upstairs, he held Claire’s hand and tucked her chin to face him.  “Honey, please, don’t make this harder than it has to be.”

Her chin quivered.  “Van, don’t you understand?  I love you, and I don’t want to live without you.”

He smirked.  “Claire, I’m going to Elmhurst, not Mars.  I’ll be back Thursday evening.”

“No, you won’t!”

He rolled his eyes and picked up his suitcase.  “I don’t have time for this.  I need to get going.  Now, kiss me goodbye.”

She turned her face away as he tried to kiss her.  He shook his head.  “Alright.  I’ll call you when I get to the hotel.”

She nodded and sucked back her tears as he and the kids stepped outside.

A few minutes later, Van came back in with a red face.  His stride was purposeful as he headed to the kitchen sink and washed his hands.

Claire followed him.  “Where are the children?”

He dried his hands on a dishtowel and scowled.  “They walked.  Someone cut both back tires on the Pontiac!  I’m gonna have to call Howell’s Garage and have it towed.  I can’t believe you’d do this to me.  Claire, really!”

He jumped when the phone rang, and he picked up the receiver.  “Hello?  …Yes.  …Oh?  …Oh, okay.  Next week, then.  …Alright fine.  Thanks.  …Yes, goodbye.”

He narrowed his eyes.  “Honey, did you seriously think I wouldn’t find out that you called Mr. Smithfield’s office and rescheduled my meeting?  Look, I don’t know what’s going on with you lately, but this is ridiculous!  You could’ve very well just cost me my job!  Claire, I’m seriously starting to question your decision making abilities.”

Tears streamed down her cheeks.  “Van, I did it for you!  Can’t you understand how much I love and need you?  The children need you!”

He rolled his eyes and threw his hands in the air.  “This is unbelievable!  I love you, too, but I don’t understand why you think something’s gonna happen to me!  You’re not prescient!  I’ve had enough of you and those silly dreams!  Now, you really need to—”

They both turned their heads when their neighbor, Maxwell, knocked then walked in.  He carried a portable transistor radio, and his face was grim.  “Van, thank God you’re still here!  I was afraid you’d already left!”

Van furrowed his brow.  “No, I had car problems.  Why?  What’s wrong?”

Maxwell turned up the radio.  “Because the bridge over Owl Creek just washed out.  You’d have been there right about now.  They said the fog’s so thick up there, you can’t see your hand in front of your face.  Eleven cars went over the edge before anyone realized what had happened.  They’re trying to get a crew in there to pull them from the water, but with the rain and fog, they say it’s doubtful they’ll recover anything.  Van, it’s a lucky thing your car broke down, or you’d be a goner.”

The End

*     *     *

Time to chat:  Do you believe visions can sometimes accurately predict the future?   Do you believe we’re sometimes sent dreams for a reason? 

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Visionary (Part Two)

It’s time for the second part of yesterday’s Micro-Fiction Monday.  Hold on to your seats…

*     *     *

“Visionary”
Part Two of Three
By: Rachel Carrera

Early the following morning, Claire whimpered in her sleep.  “Nooo!”  She bolted up and gasped loudly.

Van stepped out of the bathroom with shaving cream on his face.  “Good morning, sleepyhead.  What’s wrong?”

Tears glistened in Claire’s eyes.  “Oh, it was horrible!  I had a dream that Billy got hurt.  He fell out of a tree and broke his left arm.  Oh, I hope Howard Stevens’ tree fort isn’t very high.  Van, you don’t think—”

He wiped the shaving cream off with a towel and made his way to the bed.  “Honey, I think Billy’s just fine.  The Stevenses would have called if there was a problem.  Besides he’ll be home before nine so we can eat breakfast and get to the furniture store for the lamp sale.”

Her body still quaked as she stood and hugged him.  “Alright.  I know you’re right.  It’s just that–”

“Darling, let’s not start this dream business again.  You saw what happened with Susie last night.  Now, please, let it go.  Let’s have a good day together.”

She sighed and forced a smile.  “I’m sorry.  I’ll go start breakfast.”

A short time later, when the front door opened, Claire ran to greet Billy and hugged him tightly.

Billy winced.  “Mom, you’re smothering me!”

Tears poured down her cheeks.  “Oh, let me look at you.  I’m just so glad you’re alright.”

Van stepped into the foyer and tousled his son’s hair.  “Of course he’s alright; aren’t ya, Champ?”

Billy furrowed his brow.  “Why wouldn’t I be alright?  Mom, you’re acting crazy.”

She smiled through her tears.  “I’m sorry.  It’s just that I had another dream, and, well… I’m just so happy to see you!”  She hugged him again and kissed his cheeks.

Billy grimaced and wiped the side of his face.  “Eww!  Mom, come on!”

Van chuckled.  “Son, go put your BB gun and your suitcase up in your room, and tell your sister breakfast is ready.”

As Billy hustled upstairs, Claire said, “Be sure to wash your hands!”

When the family ate, Billy swirled his waffle in syrup and asked, “So, Mom, what was that dream about?”

Susie raised an eyebrow and pursed her lips as she eyed her mother.

Claire took a deep breath and blushed.  “Oh, I guess it was just nothing.  I dreamed that you fell out of a tree and broke your left arm.  I was just certain that you fell out of Howard’s tree fort last night.”

Billy chuckled.  “Mom, Howard’s tree fort isn’t even this tall.”  He gestured to his chest.  “It’s on the lowest branch of that old oak tree.  His mom was too scared to let his dad build it any higher.  There’s no way I could fall out of that.”

Van laughed, and Susie cracked a smile.  She picked up a bowl of blueberries and handed them to Claire.  “Mother, I’m sorry about the way I acted last evening.  I was simply horrid, and you must have hated me.”

Claire blushed.  “Of course I could never hate you, Darling.”

Van straightened his tie and smiled.  “So, is everyone ready to go help your mother pick out a new floor lamp?”

*     *     *

That night, Claire woke twice following dreams of Billy breaking his arm.  Too terrified to sleep after the second event, she tiptoed to the living room and read, praying morning would come soon.

A short time later, Van yawned as he wandered into the living room and sat next to her.  “Claire, you really need to get a handle on these dreams.  Maybe Dr. Steadman can come over after church and prescribe you a sleeping pill.”

She waved her hand.  “No, I don’t want to bother him.  His daughter’s in town visiting, and besides, we’re going up to Hallinger’s Falls.  We’ve already promised the kids.”

He rested his arm around her shoulders.  “Was it the same dream?”

She snuggled into his chest.  “Yes.  Billy falls out of a tree and breaks his left arm.”

“Hon, he already told you Howard’s tree fort isn’t four feet off the ground.  Nothing’s going to happen to him.  Now, why don’t you go pack us a picnic basket, and get breakfast ready, and I’ll go wake the kids.”  He stood and extended his hand.

She took his hand and stood.  “Alright.  Do you want scrambled or poached?”

“Poached.  And, Hon, please don’t mention this to the kids.  There’s no reason to keep calling attention to these silly dreams.”

She took a deep breath and forced a smile.  “Yes, dear.”

*     *     *

After church, Claire tried not to yawn on the drive to Hallinger’s Falls.  She simulated a happy façade as the family sang “My Darling Clementine” and “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad.”  When they arrived, she forced a smile as she unpacked the picnic basket.

After everyone ate their potato salad and fried chicken, the kids went exploring, and Claire and Van held hands as they walked along the river’s edge.  “It’s really beautiful out here, isn’t it?” he asked.

She nodded and stifled a yawn.  “It sure is.  Honey, I’m really sorry about this week with all my dreams.  I guess I was just being silly.”

He kissed the side of her head.  “Oh, Darlin’, your silliness is one of the things I love about you.  But I hate that you’re losing sleep and worrying yourself and the kids.  If you could just allow yourself to relax…”

As they came upon a few trees, Claire gasped loudly when she saw Billy balancing on a high limb with his back to them.  “Billy!” she shreiked.  “Get down from there now!”

Billy jerked his head around, and as he did, he lost his balance and fell to the ground.  “Oww!  Oww, my arm!”  He clutched his left arm as he curled up in a ball.  His lip quivered as his parents raced to him.

*     *     *

Two hours later, the emergency room doctor wiped his hands on a white hand towel as he approached the family.  “Mr. and Mrs. Keene, Billy’s going to be just fine.  It’s a clean break.  He’ll be in a cast for a few weeks, but otherwise, he’s just a little bruised.  My nurse is cleaning the plaster off him, then he’ll be ready to go.”

Claire let out a loud sigh of relief.  “Thank goodness!”

Susie’s eyes grew large.  “Mother, it’s just like in your dream.  Billy did fall out of a tree and break his left arm.  The only difference was it wasn’t Howard’s tree.”

Claire furrowed her brow.  “Actually, I didn’t know if it was Howard’s tree or not in my dream.  I just assumed since he was playing in Howard’s tree fort—”

Van rolled his eyes.  “Would you two cut it out!  Now, listen, I don’t want any talk of these silly dreams once Billy gets back.  Hon, I don’t mean to cast blame, but if you wouldn’t have startled him, he probably wouldn’t have fallen.”

Claire’s jaw dropped open.  “Are you saying this was my fault?”

“I’m not blaming anyone.  It was an accident.  I’m just saying that—”

Billy’s face beamed as he ran down the corridor to his folks.  “Mom, Dad, look at this cool cast!  I can’t wait to have all the guys sign it!”

Claire cut her eyes sideways at Van, then forced a smile and hugged her son.  “I’m just glad you’re okay, Sweetie.”  She planted a kiss on his cheek.

Billy grimaced and wiped his face.  “Aww, Mom!  Not in public!”

*     *     *

Stay tuned…  Tomorrow brings the conclusion to Visionary

Let’s talk:  Have you ever believed someone who claimed they experienced a vision?  Do you have a favorite picnic spot in your area?

Visionary (Part One)

It’s time for another Micro-Fiction Monday.  This time, today’s story is even longer than usual, so I’ll be dividing it into three parts.  You can find Part Two here tomorrow.  Now don’t be afraid…  This is only fiction…

*     *     *

“Visionary”
Part One of Three
By: Rachel Carrera

Claire gasped as she bolted up, then rubbed her eyes as she looked around the dark room and tried to gather her bearings.  Van’s soft snoring next to her assured her that she was home in bed.  It was only a dream.  She rubbed her arms until the goosebumps disappeared, then snuggled next to her husband as she willed herself to fall back asleep.

The following morning, Claire yawned as she scooped scrambled eggs and bacon onto four plates.  “Billy, Susie, breakfast is ready.”

The kids came running downstairs, and Van straightened his tie then set his fedora on the table as he snatched a piece of bacon.  “Good morning, Darlin’.  Did you sleep well?”  He kissed Claire’s cheek then sat at the head of the table.

Billy and Susie scrambled to get in their chairs as Claire untied her apron and handed Van the newspaper.  “Not really.  How about you?”

Van opened the paper without responding then raised his eyebrows.  “Oh, King George died.  It looks like England’s got a new queen.”

Susie yelped.  “Oww!  Mother, Billy hit me with his yoyo!”

Claire brought the plates to the table and said, “Billy, you know we don’t bring toys to the table.  And what are you wearing?  You can’t wear dungarees to school.  After you eat, you need to march upstairs and change into your corduroy slacks.”

“Aww, Mom!”

Van raised an eyebrow.  “Don’t sass your mother, son.  So, what’s everyone got planned for the weekend?  I need to take your mother shopping for a new lamp Saturday, and I thought we might drive up to Hallinger’s Falls for a picnic after church Sunday.”  He lit a cigarette then bit into a buttery slice of toast.

Billy wiped his milk mustache with the back of his arm and grinned.  “Howard Stevens’ dad just built him a tree fort, and they asked if I could spend the night Friday.  I’m gonna take my BB gun, and we’re gonna play Davy Crockett.”

Van smiled.  “Of course you can, son.  What about you, Princess?”

Susie smiled and smoothed her pinafore.  “Donald Fredericks asked me to the Valentine’s Dance Friday night.  I was hoping Mother would help me let down the hem of my red dress.”

Claire tensed, and the color drained from her face.  She dropped her fork to the floor with a loud ting.  Her eyes grew large, and the tendons in her neck protruded.  “I… uh… oh, Susie, I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”

Van picked up the utensil.  “Billy, get your mother a clean fork.  What’s wrong, dear?  You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Claire’s hands shook, and tears welled in her eyes.  “I… well… I had a dream last night, and, well, I just don’t think Susie should go to the dance.”

Susie frowned.  “What?  But, Mother!  You know I’ve been waiting all year for Donald to ask me out.”

Van patted Susie’s hand.  “Claire, a dream?  Really?  What kind of dream?”

Claire bit her lip and blushed as she averted his gaze.  “I know it sounds ridiculous, but I had a dream that Donald would ask Susie out.  She was in her red dress the night of their date, and he telephoned to cancel.  It broke her heart.  Oh, Van, we can’t risk having him hurt her like that!”

Susie’s jaw dropped open.  “What?  Mother, I’ll have you know that Donald’s a very nice boy!  He’d never do such a horrid thing!”

Claire knitted her brow.  “Susie, you were in tears, and you couldn’t be consoled.  I just don’t think—”

Van chuckled and patted Claire’s arm.  “Now, Darling, I have to agree with Susie.  Relying on a dream is a little farfetched.  Besides, my firm is trying to get the Fredericks account, so I don’t want to make old Jimbo angry if my daughter doesn’t accept his son’s invitation to the dance.”  He looked at Susie.  “Of course you can go, Princess.  Now, you and Billy had better get on upstairs and brush your teeth before you’re late for school.”

Susie stood and kissed Van’s cheek.  “Yes, Daddy.  Thank you.”  She and Billy rushed upstairs with a loud clamor.

Claire hung her head and rubbed her temples as Van stood.  He rubbed her shoulder then grabbed his fedora as he said, “Don’t be such a mother hen.  Susie’ll be just fine.”  He kissed her cheek, then took his briefcase and left.

*     *     *

Friday after school, Donald drove Susie home and accompanied her inside.  “Hi, Mrs. Keene, I’m Donald.  Susie thought it would be a good idea for me to meet you before the dance tonight.”

Claire forced a smile as she shook his hand.  “Of course, Donald, it’s good to meet you.  Why don’t you and Susie go sit in the living room.  I’ll bring you some cake and lemonade, and we can get to know each other.”

Donald tipped his head.  “Yes, ma’am.  Thank you.”

For the next hour, Claire served Donald six slices of her famous apple crumb cake as she asked him question after question.  As soon as he drove away, Susie scowled and put her hands on her hips.  “Mother, I can’t believe you!  Why’d you have to ask him so many personal questions?  That was so embarrassing!”

Van walked in the front door and hung his hat as Claire said, “Honey, I was just trying to see if his intentions were honorable.  I told you that in my dream he—”

Tears welled in Susie’s eyes.  “Oh, you and that silly dream!  I don’t want to hear another word!”  She spun on her heel, then raced upstairs and slammed the door to her bedroom.

Van shook his head and kissed his wife’s cheek.  “Hon, I told you to leave that dream business alone.  You’re name’s Claire, not Clairvoyant.”

*     *     *

A couple of hours later, Susie emerged downstairs in her red dress with white polka dots and red kitten heels.  “Mother, I can’t find my white cardigan, and can I please borrow your pearls?”

Claire sighed.  “Your cardigan is hanging in the back of your closet, and it’s may I please borrow your pearls.  Yes, you may.  They’re in my jewelry box.  And, Susie?”

“Yes?”

Claire bit her lip and looked sideways at Van who set his newspaper in his lap.  She forced a smile.  “Nothing.  It’s nothing.  You look beautiful, Darling.”

“Thanks!”  Susie grinned as she hurried back upstairs.

Van shook his head.  “Claire, don’t say anything.  You’re going to ruin this dance for her.  It was just a dream.”

Claire sighed and nodded.  “Alright.  I understand.”  They both jumped when the phone rang.

“I’ll get it,” Van said as he stood.

As he walked to the kitchen, Claire nervously clutched the arms of her chair.  She struggled to hear but couldn’t make out what he said.  She held her breath as she waited for his return.

Susie ran to the bottom of the stairs just as Van came back.  She grinned, and her dress flared as she spun in a circle.  “Well, how do I look?  Mother, these pearls are simply darling!  I think a bow in my hair would look better, don’t you?”

Van sucked in his lips.  “Princess, I—”

“What is it, Daddy?”

Claire clenched her hands into fists and bit her lip.

Van nodded and hugged Susie.  “Princess, that was Donald’s mother on the phone.  He can’t take you to the dance.”

“What?  Why not?”  Tears welled in Susie’s eyes as Claire stood and approached them.

Van smoothed his daughter’s hair.  “His mom said that he—”

Susie narrowed her eyes and glared at Claire.  “This is your fault, Mother!  You scared him away with all those silly questions this afternoon!  I can’t believe you!  I’ll be the laughingstock of the whole school!”

Claire reached for her daughter’s hand, but Susie jerked away dramatically.  Claire furrowed her brow.  “Susie, I just—”

Van sighed.  “Princess, Mrs. Fredericks said that Donald is sick.  She said the doctor just left their house and said he needed to stay in bed all weekend.  She said he feels horrible about having to cancel.”

Susie’s chest heaved as she sobbed even harder.  “It doesn’t matter!  It’s the biggest dance of the year next to Homecoming and Prom, and now I don’t have a date!  I’ll be a laughingstock!”  She spun on her heel and fled upstairs.  Moments later, her bedroom door slammed.

As Van and Claire headed back to their chairs in the living room, Claire sighed.  “I just knew it would turn out this way.  I just knew he’d cancel—”

Van spun on his heel and scowled.  “What?  Hon, I didn’t want to say anything in front of Susie, but she was right.  You did cause this.”

Claire’s hand flew to her chest.  “What?  But I didn’t do anything.  I—”

“Mrs. Fredericks said that Donald’s in bed because he’s got hives.  She said he’s allergic to apples, but apparently you plied him with half a dozen pieces of your apple crumb cake today, and he was too polite to turn you down.  Darling, you really need to calm down.  Let’s just get through this evening and hope Susie gets over it quickly.”

*     *     *

Be sure to come back tomorrow for the next installment of Visionary

Let’s talk:  Have you ever had a dream that came true?  Do you believe in self-fulfilling prophecies?

Happy Birthday, Allison DuBois!

Did you ever watch (or at least hear of) the television show Medium, starring Patricia Arquette?  If so, then the name Allison DuBois rings familiar.  The show was based loosely on real-life medium Allison DuBois who was born on January 24, 1972.

Mrs. DuBois claims that she became aware of her ability to communicate with the dead when she was six years old, and she has used her psychic abilities to assist law enforcement in solving crimes.

Besides being a world renowned medium and lecturer, she’s authored four books, including: Don’t Kiss Them Good-Bye, We Are Their Heaven: Why the Dead Never Leave Us, Secrets of the Monarch: How the Dead Can Teach Us About Living a Better Life, and Talk To Me—What the Dead Whisper in Your Ear.

Happy Birthday, Mrs. DuBois!

Time to talk:  Did you watch the TV show Medium when it was on?  Do you believe certain people can really communicate with the dead?  If you personally needed a crime solved and a medium offered help, would you listen to what they had to say?

Send In the Clowns

Have you ever met anyone who was afraid of clowns?  If that someone is you, you might want to skip today’s post.  Now don’t be scared. This is only fiction…

“SEND IN THE CLOWNS”
By: Rachel A. Carrera

Marlee giggled as she glanced at her husband.  “I can’t believe you, Steve.  It seems like every time the circus comes to town, you get injured.  You’re not one of those people who are afraid of clowns or something, are you?”

Steve blushed and averted her gaze.  “Just hurry up, would ya?  My back is killing me.”

“I’m driving as fast as I can.  We don’t want to get a ticket.  So, really, what’s up with you and the circus?  This isn’t your way of getting out of going with us, is it?  Three years ago when the kids wanted to go, you broke your ankle.  Two years ago, you came down with strep throat.  Last year, you got in a car accident and sprained your neck.  And today, you fell down the stairs and injured your back.  What gives?”

He sighed and tensed his muscles.  “I’m sorry, Babe.  I don’t feel like talking about it right now.  My back hurts too much.  I’ll tell you someday.  I promise.”

She rested her hand on his knee.  “Alright, Sweetie.  Look, here we are…”

*     *     *

Dr. Haskell helped Steve to the examination table then gently grabbed Marlee’s elbow.  “Mrs. Chambers, why don’t you go have a seat in the waiting room.  I’d like to talk to Steve alone.”

She bit her lip as her eyes darted between Steve and the doctor.  “Oh.  Okay.  Good luck, Honey.”  She kissed her husband’s cheek and reluctantly left.

As the door closed, the doctor turned to Steve.  “So, Steve, every year when the circus comes to town, you end up here in my office.  Marlee seems to think it’s some psychosomatic ploy to get out of going.  Do you want to talk about it?”  He gently manipulated Steve’s back as he spoke.

Steve blushed then winced as the doctor pressed on his spine.  “Promise you won’t laugh?”

“Sure.  I promise.”

“Well, it’s not like I’m getting injured on purpose.  But the reason it keeps happening…  Well, it scares the shit out of me.”  The color drained from his face as he sat up and hung his legs over the edge of the table.

Dr. Haskell took a seat next to him and took a pen from his pocket.  “Okay.  Well, tell me what it is.”

Steve studied the doctor’s eyes then slowly released his breath before he spoke.  “When I was a kid, my folks took my brother and me to the circus.  Shortly after we got there, my parents ran into some friends of theirs and started talking.  So, my brother and I went to go look at the animals.  We snuck around a back gate, and there was this elephant trainer who was beating one of the elephants with a whip.  It made me so angry that I jumped out from where we were hiding, and I shook my fist and yelled at the guy to stop it.  Well, I guess I surprised him, because he spun around.  And when he did, the elephant bucked up on its back legs and came down on the trainer and killed him instantly.  It… it was quite horrific.  He came squirting out of both ends, if you know what I mean.”

“What?  Oh, damn!”

“Yep.  Some men rushed over, and they had to shoot the elephant.  It gave me nightmares for weeks.  After that, I’ve just always had the feeling that I’m gonna die at the circus.  I don’t know why.  In fact, ever since then, I’ve had a recurring dream that I’m at a circus and killed.”

Dr. Haskell furrowed his brow.  “That’s dreadful.  How do you die in the dream?  Maybe if you know what it is, you can go to the circus, then you can face your fear and get past this.”

Steve shook his head.  “That’s just it.  Every time I have the dream, I die a different way.  Sometimes, I fall off the tightrope.  Sometimes, I get eaten by a tiger.  Sometimes, the circus tent comes crashing down on top of me and smothers me.  And sometimes, the sword swallower picks me to be his assistant.  Then before I know it, he jams a sword down my throat, and I die.  I know it sounds stupid.  And I really do want to go with Marlee and the kids.  But every time these accidents happen, they just affirm my fear that the circus really is gonna kill me.  Please don’t tell my wife.  She’d make a big deal out of it and probably send me to see a shrink.”

Dr. Haskell chuckled as he wrote on a prescription pad.  “Alright.  Consider it forgotten.  Right now, I’d like to get some film on this back of yours…”

*     *     *

Two days later, Marlee sat beside Steve’s hospital bed.  “I’m sorry you couldn’t go to the circus with us, Hon.  The kids had a blast.  Does your back still hurt just as much?”

Steve winced and forced a smile.  “No, it’s feeling a little better.  The doctor saw me this morning and said I can probably get out of here tomorrow.  Thankfully, there was no permanent damage to the discs.  He said that you should plan on waiting on me hand and foot while I lie in bed and tell you what I want for at least a month while I recuperate.”

Her eyes lit up, and her jaw playfully dropped open.  “Oh, he did, did he?”  She laughed.

He chuckled.  “No, seriously he said I need to take it easy for a couple more days, but that I should be as good as new by the weekend.”

She stood and ran her hand up his chest as she kissed him passionately.  “Well, I don’t mind waiting on you for that long.  How about if I go get you some lunch?  This hospital food looks disgusting.”

He smiled adoringly and grabbed her hand.  “Thanks, Baby.  You’re the best.”

She ran her fingers through her hair.  “I love you, Honey.”

“I love you, too, Babe.  To the moon and back.”

*     *     *

Friday night, Marlee carried dinner to the dining room table.  “Alright, kids.  Your daddy’s finally going to be able to get out of bed and eat dinner with us tonight.  I want you all on your best behavior.  Mikey, you go turn off the television.  Jason, you put the dog on the back porch.  And, Ashley, you go tell Daddy that dinner is ready.  Then I want you all to wash your hands and come sit down quietly.”

A few minutes later, everyone was seated around the table.  Steve smoothed Ashley’s long hair then winked at Marlee.  “Smells good, Babe.  I’m starved.”

Ashley beamed.  “Daddy, after dinner, we’re gonna put on a show for you!”

Steve raised his eyebrows and grinned.  “You are?  Awesome!  I haven’t seen a good show in a long time.”

*     *     *

A couple of hours later, Marlee hugged herself and sobbed as the paramedics rolled Steve out of the house on a stretcher.

In the background, a faint recording of calliope music playing “Entrance of the Gladiators” looped over and over.  A dog with a multi-colored, ruffled collar sat in a hula-hoop and growled at the door.

Ashley wore pink tights and a leotard, and tears streaked her cheeks.

Jason’s face was painted like a clown, and he wore his daddy’s shoes and a pointed paper hat made of newspaper.  His makeup ran as he cried.

Mikey hugged a stuffed monkey, and the paper mustache on his face went crooked as he wiped his nose with his arm.

Marlee’s hands trembled as they covered her mouth.  She blinked her red rimmed eyes at the medic and shook her head.  “I just don’t understand.  Steve just got out of the hospital on Wednesday, and his doctor said he was fine.  He only had a sprained back.  He was feeling better.”

The medic nodded sympathetically and rested his hand on her shoulder.  “I’m very sorry, ma’am.  You’ll have to wait for the autopsy for the official diagnosis.  But your husband appears to have suffered a massive coronary heart attack.  I don’t know what he saw, but from the look on his face, it looks like he was literally scared to death.”

THE END

Time to talk:  Is that the ending you expected?  Are you afraid of clowns?  Would you boycott a circus because of the way they treat animals?  Have you ever had a recurring dream?

The Cabin in the Woods

A few years ago, one of my good friends Ann* told me that her mother Pam* was moving in with her because the mom’s boyfriend died a few months previously and she was very depressed.  Pam moved from her home in Tennessee that she shared with her boyfriend, Chris*.  I met Pam a couple of times, and while she was very nice, she was rather quiet and reserved, and I really didn’t know anything about her.

One night after not seeing Ann or Pam for a while, I had a dream.  In the dream, a short man named Mark* with dark hair and blue eyes, was sitting in a dentist’s chair in the middle of a rural cabin.  The cabin was large with an open floor plan.  There was a split-level area of the cabin with an open loft with an ornate rail around it, and a big bed with a brass headboard in the middle.  And brightly colored flowers were everywhere.

In the dream, Mark was talking to me, even though I wasn’t actually in the dream.  He wasn’t talking to a “dream me” but rather the real me.  He repeatedly told me to tell Pam that he was fine, that he was in a good place, and that he would always love her but she needed to move on.  He kept repeating it as if he wanted to make sure I didn’t forget a single detail.

The next morning, I woke up with an eerie feeling, and I called Ann and told her about my dream.  Instead of commenting, though, she said, “I’ll call you right back,” and hung up before I could say anything more.  A few minutes later, she called back and said Pam was on the other phone, then asked me to repeat my dream.

As I retold the story, Pam started crying and asked if I could draw the cabin I saw in my dream.  We hung up, and I drew a basic sketch of the cabin, then scanned and emailed it to Ann.

That afternoon, Ann called and asked me to come to her house.  I went there, and Pam was weeping.  She had a photo album on her lap, and she handed me a photo of a man.  I looked at the photo and gasped.  It was Mark!  Next, she handed me a photo of a cabin.  It was the cabin from my dreams, only without all the flowers and no dentist’s chair!

And then she told me: her boyfriend Chris was actually named Mark Christopher.  He died as a result of a tooth infection (hence the dentist’s chair).  She used to be a florist when she lived in Tennessee (which explained all the flowers).  And the day before was Chris’ birthday, and she was particularly depressed without him.  She said my dream message made her feel better than she had since she lost him.

(*Not their actual names)

Let’s talk:  If someone who was practically a stranger had a dream about a lost loved one of yours and passed a message on to you, how would you feel about it?  Would you be creeped out or feel peaceful about it?  Do you ever dream about strangers and later see them somewhere when you’re awake?