Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Fugitive

I had the strangest dream last night, which is par for the course for me. If I can ever remember a dream these days, it's because it's strange. Really strange.

I'm shopping in an open-air market, which is to say that it's a grocery store, only outside. There are aisles and displays and specials right out there with the trees, but at least it's blacktopped, you know, so you don't have to push your shopping cart through the dirt. The developers of this open-air market were really on their game. Well it must have been a crisp day and my throat must have been dry and croaky because as I pass an end cap display of Halls Mentholyptus cough drops, I reach down and, without picking it up, expertly insert my thumbnail at the end of the rectangular pack, rip open the packaging, and remove one cough drop, all in one fluid motion. I then pop it into my mouth and go on my merry way.

"Ahem. So you think yer gonna wanta pay for that?" comes a voice from behind me.

I turn to see who in my dream I perceive to be the store manager. In reality it is Greg Eichorn.

Greg Eichorn was a schoolmate of mine from probably Kindergarten through high school. Actually through college, though we only saw each other one time on the U of I's large campus in the four years that I was there. I haven't seen or talked to him in nearly twenty years, and here he is confronting my Halls Mentholyptus theft in my first wacky dream of 2008. Greg Eichorn is no grocery store manager. In fact, I think I heard somewhere that he's a fairly successful lawyer in Chicago. Maybe that's why he's been designated to chase me in my dream to get his Halls Mentholyptus back.

"Give me a break," I crack back. "It costs all of 5¢. Here." I shove my hand in my pocket, produce a quarter, and flip it toward him. "And you can keep the change."

Yes, I was a bit of an ass in my dream (sorry Greg). I am surprised by my dream-behavior because it is completely out of character for me. And I am equally surprised, like a quarter would even cover a pack of Halls Mentholyptus cough drops. But I didn't
need a pack of Halls Mentholyptus. I only needed one. I am amazed that I was even able to find a quarter in my pocket during my dream. Usually you can't find things in your dreams. If you need a quarter (or pants, for that matter), you spend the entirety of that dream desperately looking for it as though your very life depended on it.

Well apparently mine did because after I flipped the quarter at Greg Eichorn and turned to go, he followed me. What did I expect? Now I don't remember paying for my groceries in the dream, but I presumed that I had because they were all boxed up. Apparently in dreams the checkers don't ask you "Paper or plastic". So Greg Eichorn is chasing me over a Halls Mentholyptus, and a flipped quarter. But we're not running. Yet.

I wheel my cart of boxed groceries up the blacktop a ways until we reach the entrance of the subdivision where I grew up. I've glanced over my shoulder a couple of times and see Greg Eichorn casually following me at a comfortable distance. He might be whistling too. I remove two boxes from the cart and begin a brisk walk home. Why the hell did they have to use boxes? They're so hard to carry. Greg Eichorn, too, picks up the pace. I break into a sprint, or as much of a sprint as I can manage, carrying two boxes of groceries. Greg Eichorn follows in hot pursuit. The Halls Mentholyptus is nowhere to be found, whether sucked down or spit out, I have no idea. It is now a distant memory as I run for my life.

I arrive home with Greg Eichorn hot on my heels, only my home isn't my childhood home, but a large apartment building. I'm hauling ass up flights of stairs with Greg Eichorn right behind me. I burst through my apartment door, throw the groceries down (man, I must have really needed those groceries), and slam the door. But it's too late. Greg Eichorn is right there to keep the door from slamming shut. I push with all my might to shut it, but it's no use. Greg Eichorn is a big guy.

"Hey, I'm not going to hurt you. I just want to talk," he assures me from the other side of the door. I don't know why I'm afraid of Greg Eichorn in my dream. Greg was also a really nice guy. But dreams don't always make sense, and in this one I just know I have to get away at any cost.

I let him into the apartment, and we engage in small talk around the dining room table for a few minutes. I am careful to keep the table between him and me. He is careful to keep himself between me and the door. There is nothing between me and the window. After luring him into a false sense of security, I make a break for it, paying no attention to the fact that I just raced up, like, a hundred flights of stairs. I've caught Greg Eichorn completely by surprise. He yells, "Hey!" but I'm already gone, having thrown open the curtains and the window and hurling my body out into space.

On the outside, the apartment building has transformed into my childhood home, and I have just jumped out of my first floor bedroom window. Phew! I hit the ground running. Using the crabapple tree at the corner of the house for cover, I sprint across the front of the Hill's house next door, around the corner and across the border of their back yard. But the landscape has changed in the twenty years since I lived here. Where there was once open land between all of these houses in my neighborhood, there are now chain link fences dividing their properties. And in each of these adjacent properties lie very large, sleeping dogs. I'm screwed. I can easily scale the fences, but to do so would awaken the dogs and, at the very least, alert Greg Eichorn to my whereabouts. And at the very worst, the dogs could relieve me of my life.

I'm scared to go back the way I came because Greg Eichorn has certainly emerged from the front of my house by now and will surely head in my direction. I hunker down behind the vacant kennel and dog house in the Hill's back yard trying to hold my terror at bay. Oh why did I have to steal that stupid frickin' cough drop? And why did I have to act like a jerk and flip a quarter at Greg Eichorn, a man easily twice my size? I am an idiot and I'm cowering like a frightened little bunny rabbit in a crappy hiding place. Any second now Greg Eichorn is going to find me and after how I've behaved, he'll no longer be in the mood to talk and I will pay for that Halls Mentholyptus...


...I'm comin' home, to the place where I belong, where your love has always been enough for me...

It's 6:00 a.m. and my alarm has just gone off. I've never been more thankful to hear Chris Daughtry in all my life. I hit the snooze button and then flop back down trying to decipher the bizarre elements of my dream. Why did I steal? Why did I act like a jerk? Why was Greg Eichorn, of all people, the agent of justice? I know he's a lawyer, but I don't know in what field, and, besides that, I haven't thought about him in years. Why did I run? Very strange. Very, very strange indeed.

My alarm went off a second time and I arose to start the day. But I haven't been able to shake my dream because my behavior in it really bothers me. OK, all you dream interpreters out there, let me know what you think. I'm not guilt-ridden over stealing something, because I haven't. Maybe I'm just nervous because I have to report for my make-up jury duty service next week.

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