Fallow Wounds

           The first time I had the dream, my mom stayed with me until I went back to sleep.  The second time it came, two years later, I sat by myself and stared at the ceiling.  Then I went to the window and looked outside.  It was cold, fall.  I stayed there until I was tired enough to close my eyes again.

           The dream was of a spider, and I was in a small house in the desert.  The spider’s legs were digging into the sand and its bulk was squatting over the house.  I was running around inside, from window to window, nearly blind.  I never found a way out.  Both times, the dream ended just as the spider lowered its belly, compressing the roof.

           I had that dream twice in my life.  Twice in two years.  It seems like a low rate for a dream that bad.

           I told three people about it.  Clarence was one of them, in university.  Clarence was the first one I ever told, because he was so uptight about telling me anything about himself.  He just shrugged and didn’t bother telling me his secrets, but he was so repressed anyway.  Clarence was six foot six, gawky thin, and took to cutting himself in his dorm room because he didn’t like attention.  The last I heard, he was out west cleaning toilets at a resort.

           “I just kept adding to it.  One stroke a day over the years.”  People nod.  Some smile.  Clarence was just like that, too.  All of this is just like Clarence.  “Reminds me of a friend of mine.”

           “Pardon me?”

           People practice things so that they can become better at them.  With me, it’s the smile, the great de-fuser of problems.  No one debates it.  Few know how.

           “Hello Vick,” I say to the woman who’s come up beside me.  The people I was talking to shuffle towards the bar.  Vick’s not a buyer, not a patron, not a fan.  She’s just one of those people who on the basis of her blond hair and thin legs gets invited to things like this.  Hello Vick.  Enchanted to be seen with you.  To have your arm through mine.  We should have dinner.  We should dance.  We should get together and not have children.

           “Hello Vick, nice to see you.”  She smiles.  It’s hard to blame her for being a vulture.  I only really hate her when she’s with someone else.

           “Start talking to people or you won’t sell anything.  Here, let me help.”  Vick eats the air around her.  “This is our famous artist,” she says, loudly.  “Tell me about this painting, dear.”  People are gathering.  Someone puts a wine glass in my hand.

           “It was made by one paint stroke a day.  Only one stroke, but every single day.  It began in 1992.”  As a signal to the authorities of reality that I had better start existing.  “It took six years to paint.”

           The crowd murmurs, but what I hear most clearly is the older woman who has champagne go down the wrong pipe.  I can’t see her, but I know she’s gone grey.

           “Six years, that’s a bloody long time, mate,” says a man with hands on his hips.  Vick tightens her grip on my arm.  “Still, I like it.”  He laughs and tells me that he’s from Texas, then shakes my hand as though he’s afraid to damage it.

           The second person who learned about the spider dream was my first girlfriend.  That was a university thing as well.  She took off a few years ago, but I’m sure she remembers the dream, because she was so amazed that I’d had the exact same one twice.  I’m positive she packaged the details with her knee-torn jeans, her overalls, and the red sailor coat I bought her in Quebec City.  The story’s probably in her diary, an actual paper account.  I stopped worrying about that when my lesbian friend asked me what I had ever seen in such a strange little girl.  In my head, girlfriend number one never finds another guy and never shares her diary with anyone.

           It was my own decision to trust a lesbian.  That was a girl worth having, but not terribly have-able.  I keep in touch with her on the off-chance that I’m gay.

           The Texan winks.  “Say, how do we know that you didn’t fake the whole thing?”

           Vick snaps at him, “That’s ridiculous.  Look at it.  Are you even looking?  Maybe you should get a bit closer.”

           It occurs to me that I should ask these people what they see when they set their sights on me, as they press their faces to the windows of my house, fogging the glass with breath and fingerprints.  “You could have started it a month ago and told us different,” continues the Texan.

           He’s right.  I could have.  When the Texan leaves, satisfied that I don’t have the motive or creativity for such a conspiracy, the crowd thins out.  Vick stays with me.  “Look over here,” she whispers, “these two have potential.”  Then her voice goes up.  “Meet Mr. and Mrs. Gearish.

           “Jaime.”

           “Vivienne.”

           Vick smiles and whispers in my ear.  “I hope you don’t mind.”

           Jaime and Vivienne Gearish, two people who could tell me about 1951 and how teenagers at soda shops folded pornography in their textbooks and kept cocaine in their purses.  “I’ve seen you in magazines,” I tell them.

           Jaime laughs and tells me about the time he shot his biggest bear (Vick puts her hand to her cleavage).  He’d used a bow in BC.  The arrow had hit with such force that it’d broken through the animal’s rib cage and splattered its heart against the leaves.

           Jaime points to the painting.  “It reminds me of Korea.”

           “I’m sorry,” I tell him.

           “Vivienne likes this piece because it’s got a relationship with pain.”  The old man is still very handsome.  He must have been gorgeous when he was young.  Vivienne keeps looking at Vick.  “I haven’t seen many paintings like that.”

           “There’s only one.”

           Jaime grins.  He was probably a cute boy, too.  “Well, we have a new house in the city, and we’re looking to make some acquisitions.  Everyone’s been telling us that this is the place to start.  Your exhibit.”

           I nod, recalling my relationship with pain.  I had Lego when I was a boy.  I went through three bicycles before I finally got my driver’s license.  At the age of thirteen, I got cut on the hand by a piece of glass someone had hidden in a window.

           “It’s marvelous,” says Vivienne.  “The text is haunting.”  She beams at me with green eyes that suggest readiness for a something that I would have a hard time naming.  “It’s so naked.  So stark.”  The ‘something’ comes a little closer, shuffle-stepping as it breathes on me.

           I played soccer.  I got into a good university.  I have many friends.  My family loves me.  My parents were always rich.  My grandparents are still alive.

           Vick squeezes my arm.  “Why don’t you say a bit about the piece?”

           “It hurts to,” I admit.  But I try anyway, reaching deep for an internalized paint can of fumes.  I wonder what Clarence would say if he were here.  I wonder what the lesbian would say.

           “Son,” begins Mr. Gearish, tearing up at my explanation, “listen to me.”

           My only speeding ticket was overturned.  My first apartment was small but cozy and nothing ever leaked.  I’ve had six girlfriends, and though I haven’t married any of them, I haven’t divorced any either.  When I was twenty five, I won tickets to see a movie.  My brother enjoys my company.  He lives in Africa, and sends pictures.  I paint them sometimes.  My sister lives in the city, not far from me.  We have dinner a couple of times a week.  She makes me hold her arm as a proper gentleman should.  Her job as a traffic reporter keeps her in a helicopter for parts of the day.  She always tells me that she saw me on such and such a day on such and such a street.  From the helicopter.  From the sky.

           My brother sends me recipes for African food.  My sister mails me care packages even though I live ten minutes from her.

           And in the recurring dream-story, the spider squats and the wood bends above my head.  Both times, the house never fell.  Maybe I was too blind to see the cracks.

           “How much?” asks Mr. Gearish, so ready that he might as well have written the words on his cheque book.

           The frame around the canvas is shiny new.  There were two men in coveralls polishing the wood this morning for about three hours.  The gallery director was watching them the whole time.  In 1992, I made the first stroke, and used green to do it.  In late 1998, I finished off with blood-crimson morning red mixed with a hint of artichoke fire.  And that’s exactly how I answer the old man’s question.

*****

           “You did very well,” Vick tells me, as we sit on the steps of the gallery.  The lights are out and the valet boys are at home drooling over car catalogues.  Vick’s got my coat around her shoulders.  It rained sometime in the last three hours.

           I ask her about the Gearish’s, what they’re like, how she met up with them, why she thinks they’re interested in my work and that piece in particular.

           “Why don’t you tell me about that painting?” she asks.

           I started with a yellow grade-school pencil when I was five years old.  The first tools were stored in my butternut cupboard, right beneath the box for my twenty-metre electric train set.  By junior high, I was playing with water paints.  It wasn’t until high school that I was put on display.  Later on, they put a photograph of me in one of my old classrooms.

           The night of prom, I got home a little drunk and sang my way to the front door.  I went to my room, took off my tie, and stayed up all night with my colours.  My mother found me in the morning, the music on, my eyes bleary.  I went away to university, found the first of my six girlfriends.  I went to class, played soccer.  On the weekends, I traveled.  One night, I met my friend the lesbian.  February 26th, she led me up the steps to the main campus bar, holding my hand.  She drew me to a spot near a pool table.  We ordered a pitcher of beer.  She told me she was gay.

           It ended on an April day.  I got something called a job, and became a lonely man on a rooftop, trying to be intimate with the sky.

           That ended on an April day, too.  I walked home from the stodgy mudpile that was my work and found that my apartment was moving in on me.  Circumnavigated 20 by 40 feet until the ground was worn.  Sang a blues song from memory.  At sunset, I found a piece of old canvas and put a stroke on it, a green one.  For six years, I added a stroke a day to it, careful never to bury that first mark.

           “Sorry Vick.”

           She shrugs, gets up.  Asks me to call a cab.  I don’t think she’s mad but it’s hard to tell.  She’s still gorgeous, with her heels in the puddles.

           I apologize again, because within all this perfection, this wonderfully-designed ode to a decent life, there was a dream once where a spider squatted low over a house and a boy ran mostly-blind from window to window within.  I take Vick’s hand, walk her to the cab.

           “It was just a dream,” I tell her.

           It was.  But it happened twice.

 

90 thoughts on “Fallow Wounds

  1. I want to kiss the narrator; I feel like he would be hungry for it, and I want to bury Vick in the desert, and leave her for the spider to dig up and lay its eggs inside her.

    I’m knotted up and feel sick and distressed and panicked for this guy — almost like the one about drowning.

    Nicely done; I feel like when you write ones like this, you’ve got your finger on the pulse of a cold fist that begins low in the belly, and begins to reach higher, reaching for the heart, to squeeze.

    Mind you, if you weren’t going for fear — sorry. Maybe I’m just having a weird morning

  2. I had a recurring dream when I was a child that a giant scorpion was crushing my house. It would break down half of it, and my entire family would run outside to fight it off. I always woke when we made it outside and saw how big it truly was. Our little house in the desert… The similarities here are slightly haunting.
    What a fantastic piece of writing. You’ve created a vivid character and a wonderful scene at the art showing. It all seems real. It makes me want to see this piece of art he has created. It makes me want to know the story behind every stroke.

      • I would say that the similarities here are more than just slightly haunting. That’s being casual. What are the odds of two people having the same dream? And this dream, in particular? It’s kind of upsetting.

        • I’ve had a couple recurring dreams in my life. Very interesting. Dreams are supposed to be our subconcious trying to figure a solution to a problem or something that is bothering us.

        • similar dreams, not exactly the same. Trent ran around inside. DJ and his family went outside. Perhaps a closely related fear but different in how to react/resolve the issue.

          • no, not likely. You want me to analyse your dreams?? Ok, you are home. home = safety. Spiders. I think of them as creepy. The bigger the scairier. You’re spider was certianly big! My sense is something was going on that threatened your sense of safety. You felt trapped and were sure there was no way out.

            dj, on the other hand had the safety of his house torn away, and his family was there, you were alone, he wasn’t alone but that could make his threat worse as it involved his family. He woke when they got outside and saw how big it was. Something really big was threatening him.

            I could get more specific if I knew you better, dreams are very personal.

            Hey did you know I hold a degree in psychology?

          • I think the spider is the recognition that there is something greater than himself -more powerful, alive and natural. It feels threatening because his philosophy is that there is nothing greater than himself. I suspect that if he accepted that there is a bigger natural force that it would cease to be threatening and would manifest itself in a different way. In fact, the lack of recognition is actually threatening his sense of well being, etc. All lies under the greater force and it has many arms reaching into all different parts of life.

            • Well, I’m not sure about that. You have a theme about this something that is greater than me, Paul – is such recognition the key to solving what ails us? Does that put away our dim dreams? Not so sure. Plus, I’m positive that there is something out there greater than me – I just don’t know what it is. Does that level of semi-acceptance help or hinder me, I wonder? I should ask the spider.

          • We’ll always ail, Trent – part of who we are. But in my mind I need a direction for it all to make sense – where do I go from here? I can’t progress (by definition) unless I have a direction. And I find that direction need is filled perfectly by the acknowldgement that we are all a part of something that is much larger than all of us – that we are as brothers and sisters in this thing we call reality. That one assumption engenders empathy, caring for all, direction, ethics, morals – it all materializes into reality with that one belief. And it makes decision making “easier” – I put that into quotes because it becomes clear what I should do but it doesn’t make the doing of it any less painful. Once you go there it becomes difficult to go back to not caring, because so much makes sense – things that were impenatrable before. Mind you it opens up whole other issues that don’t have to be addressed when life is just a collection of independent events.

            To be quite honest with you, I don’t go around proselytizing cause I figure each person has not only the ability but the right to make up their own mind. I’m not a follower of any religion – I’m kind of wary of religions, too many bad things have been done in their name. I do read a lot including scriptures, but I really think that the true “meaning” of life can be found here in our everyday individual worlds. And the reason why I seem to have a recurring theme around you is that you are clearly expressing, regularly, the disjointedness and terrible emptiness of the world – the collection of unconnected occurrences. And it seems to cause you (and many others) angst. Oh, and you express it very eloquently, I must say, to the point where it resonates with many of your readers – myself included. Well done. You also deal with the dirty details of life – the nitty gritty – something that I think clearly exhibits your awareness (an important detail to understanding). So between the awareness, and the angst and the choice of topics, I seem to come back to the same theme regularly. Anyway, geat blog and great post. Keep up the good work!

            • That’s interesting, about the emptiness of the world. I guess as a writer, I try not to interpret what I’m writing or to say that it says anything at all. To you it appears that it’s about the emptiness and disjointedness that I perceive; I think others have said fairly different things. My own interpretation, if I actually have one, is kept to myself, though I will say that I don’t write to express what I deem to be lacking in the world. I write to outline what I find to be beautiful. An art school teacher once told me that drawing is about filling in the shadows, shading those in, until something emerges. For me, this is kind of the same thing.

  3. I like your style, Trent. Reading this fine piece has put me into a kind a dreamy place. I feel like your narrator might be just one step ahead of something that will bite him in the ass, like he could turn a dark corner at any second. That’s a thrilling character. You captured that in a subtle way that speaks volumes about your writing. Nicely done.

  4. You write these stories that just leave me completely mystified and stunned. That’s all there is to it. I don’t know how you do this. There are so many great lines in this. So many incredible images. I’ll say it again and again until you finally do something about it. You should do more with your stories. Much more. There is a place in the literary world for you.

  5. Great piece Trent. It seems that your character has added bits and pieces to his life without a central point – except, of course his painting. I don’t doubt that is a pretty typical modern day life – all pieces thrown together wihout a direction or cohesion. Well done..

  6. Great piece. Wow. I really loved it.

    When I was younger, I used to have a repeating dream of paramedic-typed-people carrying my father out of the house on a stretcher covered with an Animal (from the Muppets) towel which I actually own.

    • Okay, that’s really disturbing. I can imagine that producing some nightmares… and wait, aren’t you like 15? So when you say when you were younger, you mean like 8 or something?

        • could very well have been. People don’t give children enough credit. You may not have known that there was any discourse between your parents conciously, but you “felt” it at some level and your brain gave you an understandable answer. Somewhere in your little 4 year old body you saw things happening even if you didn’t exactly “get it”.

          • I suppose.

            To be honest, if I had any idea it would have definitely been subconsciously. My dad had an affair and no one in the family exactly expected it, although there were signs in hindsight.

  7. Nice marriage of image and prose. Would have like to see the pic up front. Do you know who Barry Gifford is? This occupies the same atmosphere as his stories. Try Wyoming. You might like it.

    Minor quibble. People who say “bloody” and “mate” aren’t from Texas. Or is that part of a dream?

    • You mean the painting or the photo attached to the story? Agreed with your quibble, some Texans take on such affectations…

      I don’t know Barry Gifford, but will try that piece. Love voices I haven’t heard before.

      In truth, this story responds a bit to your last post, I was picturing the Holden Caulfield wayfarer coming to grips with himself and then realizing that day in, day out, the grip is pretty loose.

      • Actually, I was referring to the photo vis-à-vis the dream. But, now that you planted the seed, yes, the painting, too. One stroke per day is so genius that I can’t believe it hasn’t been tried before.

        Gifford is pretty badass. And Wyoming is thin, so it’s not much of a commitment. It’s a good introduction.

        • I’ve toyed around with the idea of a word a day story, just to see what it would do. I should really try that.

          Will move the photo up front, I like that idea, and as for Mr. Gifford, I’m gonna head his way.

  8. I think you’re dream adequately depicts how you feel about the planet crushing your soul. People crushing your writing. Your family weighing on your shoulders, or hands, or the roof, whatever. But you should do an entire story based on his one stroke a day… this is a chapter in a book! just don’t tell any painters, they will steel your idea in a blink. I think this would make a great movie too, called “one stroke”. hehehe.
    I’d say it again, but you already know… 🙂

  9. this would make such a good movie, “one stroke!” it would also make a fabulous chapter in a novel!!! hint hint! damn, once again… well, you know! and your dream, seems like the weight of the world is weighin on your shoulders! quit trying to do it all, and just say f it. go write!

  10. Great story, Seems my dreams can be just as bizarre. Just cross daleks and wookey hole into the mix. Or my favorite horrible dream “The incredible melting man”, really bad B movie but the dream after now that was scary and after I found it hard to find a scary film 😀 I think there should be another movie like your story, I seem to remember one where the dream was a repressed memory and high adventure followed though the Title escapes me.

    • Daleks creep me out, always have… I’ve not seen The Incredible Melting Man, but I suspect I have been hardened by so much consumption of horror that I can’t hardly feel the genre anymore. A movie like this… I love movies, and I often think in slighly cinematic ways I guess. Or it could just be the wine.

  11. Read this twice. First time, I lingered as a ghost, reading and absorbing. Now, I will say hello and nod my head once again to one of my favorite, creative writers. I took more in with the second read… But that’s how you write, your layers are deep, smart with each peel, nourishment for the reader.

  12. There’s always a kind of sinister tension to your stories that I love but also find unsettling (like I said before, it remind me of the writing of Salinger, and Orwell).
    This story kind of reminds me of the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by Eliot.

    This is great. I love love love your characterisation. I hope that in years to come students are studying your work.

  13. Unsettling and amazing, as always. And as always, I shouldn’t be reading at night. Especially while drinking. As always. You make me think and feel.

  14. “became a lonely man on a rooftop, trying to be intimate with the sky.” – i love these lines. 🙂

  15. Reoccurring dreams are fascinating. Although, I would say your giant spider dream was more of a nightmare. I had a reoccurring nightmare from the age of 12 every night for several years. It gradually turned into every couple of nights, to once a week, to once a month, etc. until well into adulthood when I realized I hadn’t had it for some time. It left its mark, however, as a terrified kid afraid to go to sleep forced herself to stay awake until she became a raging insomniac. Painting would be a wonderful release from such terror. Writing works as well…at least it did for me.

    • Thanks Kelly, kind of amazing how old stuff gets comments. I like this story, I think it’s about people who have art deeply buried in their souls but end up commodotizing it. I think that’s sad but I don’t want to be judgemental about it.

      I’m flying far away next week! But I’m going to get to your posts first.

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