Tag Archives: Dreams

Zahnie (part 2).

I know these stories might not be for everyone. Honestly it’s more difficult to share this online than it is my memories about Pistol River, or the fact that I peed the bed until I was eleven. So if you like the fiction pieces I’m writing, please let me know. I sorely lacking in self-confidence here. Many thanks to my readers.


The night before our dog disappeared, I dreamed I was walking the strip of land toward Pistol River with Old Shep. We we needed to do something important out there, but I could not remember what it was. In the real world, the river is a short walk, several hundred strides, but in this dream, no matter how much we kept walking, we were not getting any closer.

I looked at Shep. He was a rangy, panting thing, all black and white, with a doggy smile that makes you want to give him belly rubs and curl your hands into his coat of fur. He kept on moving, but no matter how much I walked, he kept going further ahead. He kept running back and forth from fifty paces out, to check back on my situation, in case there came a moment when I needed a dog more than just about anything else in the universe.

There’s a kind of terror in standing still when you know you should be moving. Shep moved; I stayed in place. The river just kept being in its same place, and my place in the world kept being where it was. A thrill rippled through me at the wrongness of the situation and I shuddered. But I kept walking, because that’s what you do in a situation like that.

Then Old Shep turned his head toward me, from far, far away, like he was on the wrong end of a spyglass, all of a sudden he was there. With his one blue eye burning into my soul, he said, “The things around here are going to change, Zahnie.”

I don’t know how you behave when your dog speaks with you, but I figure if mine has something important to say, I better take the time to listen. So I did. I stopped walking and looked right back at him and said, “How do you mean, Shep?”

“Your family. This spot of land. Your friends. The world around here.”

I sighed. Hadn’t I had enough pain already? Change is pain. “Well, I guess nothing stays the same. Got anything else to say? We’re almost at the river now.” Because, we were. Without moving, we were standing at the gravel bar behind a huge, white driftwood log.

“Just be careful. ”

“I usually am.”

“You can do this thing. You can make things right.”

“Well, thanks” I said, because it’s polite.

Then his ears pricked. He looked upstream and down toward the ocean. He yipped “Get away from here! Detnaaghi!”And then my dog was just gone.

Before I could even say goodbye, or ask Shep which things needed making right, the ground started to shake. First there was a jolt, which slammed me to the ground, and then the world rocked hard. The ground tilted and the high grassy river dune began to split apart, and huge cracks began to appear in the ground. Then the fissures filled up with water. The driftwood log I’d hidden behind shattered into a million pieces, and the splinters shuddered, and they were long black snakes. They slithered fast in every direction, trying to break away from the quake. And then at once. they were all over my prone body.

I thrashed about, flinging snakes outward, as but as fast as I could remove one, another one replaced it. The serpents bit at me, gouging toenail-sized chunks from my flesh. I screamed, and flailed my arms to protect myself, but the snakes kept coming. The snakes covered my sight. The world was black with them.

In the end, the river itself saved me. Her water covered me and, in a breath, the world was nothing but the persistent heft, and the eternal rumble of Pistol River. I was swimming, fast.  I rolled in the rapids, coursed through the deep places, leapt over high rocks in my urge to move. I was full, and muscular, and nothing could stop me. I had been filled the ocean’s power. I was the powerful urge to move. I was instinct itself. I was the salmon and I was the river. I knew where to go, and how to get there.

And then I was awake, lying all sweaty and heart pounding. Alphie was next to me, on the straw mattress. She snored a few times but must have heard me. Her breathing changed and she fluttered awake. I just knew. She pressed her round, delicious warmth against me.

But the power and the fear of the dream was still there. I wondered if that earthquake had been a real thing. I wanted to run out and check for cracks in the ground. Look for snakes. Instead, I held still, and let my heart calm itself.

Sometimes I don’t have the right words for things. “Was there an earthquake?” didn’t seem right. Too direct. If I’m wrong I look like a fool. If I’m right, maybe she is imagining what I want to hear. “Did you feel that earthquake last night?” Too definite. I’m not sure the world even moved, outside my head.

I discarded both phrases, and simply whispered “I dreamed about snakes last night.” No reason to be so quiet, nobody was in the house. Whispering just seemed right. The last word Shep had spoken haunted me. Weird syllables that made me shiver. Detnaaghi.

“Oh?” I could hear the smile in her voice as her warm hand moved across my body. “Yeah, sounds about right. Snakes can pop up just about anywhere.”

“Alphie, we’ve got brush to clear.” But I did not really mean it.

“Do we really have to get out of bed?” she whispered. Her lips met mine in the dark.

Yes. I nodded, even though it was too dark to see.  I held to the moment like a hummingbird egg. “No. I think the snakes can wait.”

“Chores, you mean?”

“Right.” I rolled over, and our bodies pressed together.

Lord, I loved that woman.


This morning, I woke up after a long dream that was loosely tied in with Harry Potter characters.  I do this somewhat frequently; maybe once a month; maybe more; where real and fictional characters who have deeply affected me, wind through my dreams. A short list:

  • The Beatles (including the two dead ones)
  • The cast of Friends
  • Characters from Lord of the Rings
  • The cast of M*A*S*H
  • The characters from the Harry Potter books
  • The cast of Northern Exposure (this was a few years ago, when it was still on TV)
  • The characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

I don’t know if this tells me anything in particular; I’ll leave the dream interpretations others more skilled in the Psychological Arts than I am.

My grandparents and great-grandparents (all dead but three, now) also visit my dreams fairly frequently. I don’t know what that means either. Maybe I have some unresolved business with them? They’re never trying to warn me or anything. I just … dream them. We’re going to visit them, or coming from visiting them, or organizing a huge meal. Sometimes I don’t want to wake up from these dreams because, well, people who are very important to me are there, and acting the way they should act, and aren’t in a box or urn someplace. I usually wake up pensive, with a quiver in my heart after one of those nights.

But why the heck do I dream about Harry Potter and his magical world? I haven’t been seventeen for far more than seventeen years. I don’t usually go around saving the world from Voldemort, except in  my mind, where he’s always present, and has to be beaten back before he brings the world to a chaotic ruin and kills Albus Dumbledore (who is never dead in my dreams).

There’s a German literary term, Bildungsroman,  that basically means “coming of age novel.” Huckleberry Finn is a fine example of one of these. So is Burroughs’s Running With Scissors (in case you don’t read books over 30 years old). This type of work has always appealed to me. I like seeing things through new eyes; the process of discovery of a young person is fascinating; often they notice things I wouldn’t. Many Fantasy novels have a heavy dose of the Bildungsroman in them which is, in part, why I enjoy reading that literature so much. There’s something heartening and often cheerful to see a character, and watch them grow and learn. A novel, even a long one, I can usually finish in 8 or so hours, and enjoy the arc of a story that ends (preferably) with somebody growing up, wiser, and better, and maybe with a touch of magical power.  Seeing it in real life with my two sons is rather slow-motion version of the same thing. I guess it’s why I like being a father so much. There’s magic in watching them mature. If I could condense their lives into a three-hundred page novel, I surely would. And they’d probably sue me for revealing all sorts of weird stuff about them.

But that’s life. You gotta live it, and you gotta dream it.

The View from the Mushroom Cloud

We watched the mushroom cloud from Don Ryall’s back deck. The family and I were visiting him for a bit of a vacation, when terrorists launched multiple nuclear attacks simultaneously throughout the United States.  San Jose was a target, or maybe San Francisco.  We could hear the deafening roar and the late evening sky turned pink, then orange. It was like day.  The cloud of debris was high above the redwoods atop the Santa Cruz mountains. Continue reading The View from the Mushroom Cloud


There is nothing quite so obnoxious as a friend saying “I had the strangest dream last night,” and then insisting for the next five minutes on regaling you with sentences like “It was in my old house, you know, but it wasn’t really my old house? and I knew everyone in the room, but not really. And all my teeth kept falling out and I had to stuff them back into the sockets in my jaw.  Then there was this jellyfish…” Continue reading Dreams

Restless Legs

I dribbled the ball to the right… My footwork wasn’t all that great, but I had got past a few defensemen.  the wingers were all tied up to the left. Five more feet and I had an open shot toward the goal. Coach Siler is screaming for me to pass the ball – I’m not that great a player but I’m open and I’ll take my shot. The ball was sluggish; probably needed more air. With a little burst of speed, I brought my foot back. The goalkeeper wasn’t there, now swiftly…