Saturday, August 16, 2008

I'm sitting at a long narrow empty table by a window with an old writer-friend of mine who is unusually talkative and has developed the strange habit of fluttering his eyelashes while he speaks. About this time, a cheerful old lady comes up to me and insists on pinning a little ribbon on my lapel. After she leaves, my friend tells me he has a terrible headache. We stand up, but can't leave because the table is too long. So I get down on my hands and knees and say, "Come on, we can go out this way." But when I try crawling out under the table I'm met by a wooden crossbeam that's so low I can't crawl under it. And then, suddenly, there is no table and no friend. I'm walking along a large grassy corridor toward the hut where I've been living when I meet a man talking on a cell phone. It's someone I haven't seen for years, a man who used to run a little neighborhood market with his brother. His shaggy eyebrows are twice the size they used to be, and he is at once very chipper and insincere — to the person he's talking to on the phone, and to me. I greet him without stopping. I reach the hut. Everything's a mess. Someone's been there. I go to the little shelf in the corner to get my friend an aspirin. But instead of the bottle I find a single pill in some spiderwebs, lint, and shavings, so I dust it off the best I can and put it in my pocket. I turn around, only to find that someone has planted two cherry trees while my back is turned. They are straight young trees, with trunks about two inches in diameter, and the dry hard ground around them shows no sign that they have just been planted. Just then, a garbage truck approaches the small opening between the edge of my hut, which no longer has any walls and is now constructed mostly of chicken wire, and the corner of what looks like a backstop on a baseball field. The space is about three feet wide. Somehow, the truck fits. I remember my friend, take the pill out of my pocket, and swallow it.

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