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Sunday, December 14, 2008

a public service announcement

it's mid-afternoon, and i'm driving the kids home from somewhere. high up in the sky i notice a blimp is flying, and i point it out to the kids but it's already gone where they can't see. disappointed, they begin to whine, but then i see another. and another. soon blimps of every shape, color, and size crowd the overcast sky, some swooping dangerously low to the ground. ahead of me, a small car-sized blimp comes to a crash on the road and i swerve, trying to miss it, but we collide. there's confusion, darkness, and a high keening noise in my ears.

i'm standing on a high bank of a dirt hill, beneath a huge oak tree, and as if i'm having an out of body experience i see the carnage of the car-blimp encounter far below me. my grey truck is a mass of twisted metal, and i see the paramedics shrug as they find no driver or passengers inside. good, i think. at least my kids weren't in there when we hit.

"excuse me," a voice says from up above. curious, i look up to find an adventurous-looking man hanging by his suspenders from a tree. "you haven't happened to see a crampon lying around here anywhere, have you?"

i look around to find i'm standing in a rubble of odds and ends--a shoe, some fabric, and there, glinting in the grey light, is a crampon.

"there it is," i say but as soon as i point to it he's out of the tree picking it up and pretending he'd seen it there all along.

"nevermind," he said, "i found it."

"because i showed you where it was," i retorted irritably, though i have no idea why i would even care. the man shakes my hand and asks if he can stay with me and my family, and when i stare at him uncertainly he launches into a ream of tall tales that are ridiculous and entertaining. i find after several stories that i've been unwittingly leading him back to my house.

the scene changes, and art and i and a group of people are running through an urban park, laughing and squealing as icy rain pelts us. somehow i trip and fall, and find myself laying face up on the wet grass watching the raindrops come flying toward me. for some reason it feels like magic. art helps me up and we continue to our destination--a museum of some sort. art buys our tickets, but he's angry now and when i ask why he says the tickets were fifty five dollars each, and hands me the change. i apologize to him--our friend said the tickets were only twenty, i had no idea. i'm fretting and counting our change when we meet up with our group inside.

"don't worry about it, honey," a matronly woman says soothingly, urging me to pocket the change and enjoy myself.

"can i be honest with you?" a boy with overly large teeth asks. when i nod he continues, "overly worried and manipulative females are such a bore. i can tell you're smelling the bond between us and that's making you act weird and possesive."

mystified, i manage a "huh?" before art cuts in angrily.

"he thinks you have a crush on him."

i stare at the boy with huge teeth and choke back a laugh. he's smiling a self-satisfied smile which doesn't falter when i assure him that no, i don't have a crush on him. i'm pretty well taken with my husband, thanks. annoyed by his ridiculous assertion, art and i leave the group, when suddenly everything changes again. art is gone, and i'm alone in a group of hundreds milling about the museum. suddenly i notice that no one is moving. everyone stands stock still as though frozen, or waiting for something. large screens around the room flicker to life, and a scratchy recording plays over the loudspeaker.

"please prepare yourself for a public service announcement."

as a whole, all faces turn expectantly toward the screens. another flicker, and an old sepia-tinted reel is playing: a film showing hundreds of sick people laying on pallets on the ground. their eyes are sunken and they seem sleepy.

"if you're feeling tired, better call your loved ones to say goodbye," the voice-over says cheerfully. "belasian sleeping sickness is back with a bang this year."

on screen, an elderly woman seems to fall asleep, her gaunt face lined and pained. her family weeps and wails silently while the narrator continues to describe signs and symptoms of this disease, and then suddenly the screen goes dark and lights are back up. nobody moves. then, as a whole, a low moaning begins to swell around me. people begin to scream and wail, and then, as a dirge begins to play from nowhere and everywhere at once, the people around me begin to remove shards of pottery from their bags and pockets. in time with the slow funereal music they start to scrape at their skin, and only then do i notice the sores they seem to have from head to toe. but i am unscathed.

and where is my husband? and where are my children? longing to escape the depressing dirge and illness that i seem somehow immune to, i walk out the door and into the sun.

2 comments:

Steve Nelson said...

Sooo... yeah.

Merry Christmas!

~Steve

contrarian 78 said...

I hate it when that happens to me.