Welcome back, Dear Reader! If you’ve read the first seven excerpts, feel free to skip this preamble to the meat a few paragraphs down. If you haven’t, well, thanks for joining me!
These are exciting times for your ol’ pal Jerry – after talking about it for most of my life, I finally put the proverbial money and mouth together and started my first novel, Of Dreams & Angels, in the fall of 2019. It’s still in the first draft, but I thought it would be fun to start putting pieces of it (and thereby my entire soul, don’t you know!) out into the universe. Maybe you’ll get caught up in the intrigue and start following along too.
The synopsis – well, before we get to that, Stephen King, in his memoir On Writing, wrote that many of his stories can be expressed as a What-if question, and after reading that, my imagination (as it pertained to story ideas) started framing situations that way. Of Dreams is this question: What if a man started dreaming about a woman he’d never met, but who actually exists; falls in love with her based on what he sees in the dreams and sets out to find her?
Don’t ask me where it came from, and believe me when I say I’m just as shocked as you are that my first idea for a novel – ok maybe not the first idea in the grand scope of my life, but the first one to make it to fruition – was a fantastical love story. But as soon as I thought of it, *I* wanted to know what would happen, which made me think others might want to, too.
At all rates, here you have it, Dear Reader (also a not-so-subtle borrow from Mr. King, who as you may know refers to us as “Constant Reader”) – another excerpt from Of Dreams & Angels. Joe is now dreaming about Claire (and has learned her name, among a whole lot of other things!) every night–still trying to figure out if this is the most elaborate instance of lucid dreaming in the history of humankind, or if she just might be real. Enjoy!
The dreams came every night now. Or she came to him. He went to her? Joe still hadn’t the first clue how to explain this to another human being—though he had no intention of sharing his experience beyond his doctor and Mr. Kemp.
Any passive, dreamless sleep he managed to achieve was still largely restless; he’d lay his head down most nights right on schedule, still desperately clinging to the hope that proper structure would somehow solve this—and yet he’d still lie there in anticipation of seeing her. While most visions remained prosaic and uneventful on a surface level, every night there was something new: some new piece of information, some new part of her soul.
There were the three children: Ainsley, aged 6, Holly, aged 12, and Jackson (or Jack, as he was usually called), 15. David was the father who sometime in the last few years (from what Joe could glean) finally walked out after years of serial infidelity; this last time with one of Claire’s oldest friends, Miranda, which served as the ultimate betrayal. When the affairs had been limited to the “skanks on the road” (Claire’s sister’s oft-used description, to Claire’s chagrin anytime the children might be in earshot), there was some sense of being able to summon the courage necessary to continue the marriage in the name of the kids. These were circumstantial and one-off dalliances resulting from David’s frequent business trips, rather than full-on relationships. At least this was what Claire was forced to tell herself; the best she could conjure anytime she’d look at the faces of her children while contemplating throwing their lives into upheaval.
But then there had been Miranda, right under Claire’s nose, right in her face, and most likely (though she stopped miraculously short of demanding confirmation) in Claire’s own bed. When David finally copped to the affair after two years of mounting, impossible-to-ignore evidence, the admission of—or at least use of the word—love had been the hardest to hear of all. Claire and David’s love had admittedly faded not long after Jackson arrived; they had been young, both in the throes of starting career and family. They mutually allowed their relationship to slide to fourth or fifth on the priorities list—if it even ranked that high much of the time—and yet no part of such retrospective assuaged the pain that came with hearing that word directed toward someone else. Someone new. And yet entirely familiar.
The “coming clean” session had consequently tainted the waters of everything from the prior couple years. David’s progressive insistence at inviting Miranda, her husband Louis, and their children over for dinners and games on weekends. Family trips taken together. Especially the trips. Louis had the same adventurous streak as Claire when it came to visiting the jungles of Peru, or engaging in marathon, 16-hour sessions at Disneyland Paris with kids in tow. Whereas David and Miranda always (Claire realized, with hindsight) made a case for staying on the resort, sometimes with one or more of the children.
It had been impossible, after the fallout, for Claire not to scour memories and timelines for real or imagined scenarios: had David and Miranda sent the kids to the pool while they retreated to one of the bedrooms? This retrospective search compounded with what she was certain was unwarranted guilt, but felt nonetheless: had any of the children been wise to what happened? Had they ever seen anything? Had they witnessed an embrace that held just a moment too long, and simply dismissed or been unaware of what they had seen?
The resulting separations and divorces and remarriages (David and Miranda; Louis had eventually remarried as well) wracked through their families. They played like schisms seen in movies where a fault line splits the ground in two, running through entire buildings, forests, and even mountains, shattering and separating everything it tore through. That was perhaps the biggest indignity of them all: the in-her-face reminder every time Claire picked up the kids from David’s (and more accurately, Miranda’s) home, every second weekend. The ten metres between the curb and their doorstep always felt like a marathon through mud for Claire.
She had nearly insisted in the prolonged and inevitably acrimonious dissolution of their coupling that David be made to pick up and drop off from her home. Yet as regularly occurred in the legal dismantling of broken hearts, for every shattered piece wrapped in a cloak of armour presented by one side, the opposing side brought a weapon of equal measure to bear. Warranted, or not. Relative, or not. Reasonable, or most certainly, not.
It occurred to Claire—certainly more than once, in a drawn-out process lasting the better part of two years—that most actions in this societally-managed deconstruction were rarely warranted, rarely relative, and certainly far from reasonable. The invocation of the rule of law, invented as a mechanism to deal with wounded emotions, meant things had progressed in a far-from-reasonable way. The actions that ensued were seldom more than a ladder-rung or two above playground hurts, where the boy threw gravel at the girl because she circled a heart around her name on a valentine to a different boy. She often wondered if it could even be called ‘elevated’ or ‘above’ that kind of behaviour.
Years later, Joe couldn’t have said how he knew these things, exactly. He hadn’t witnessed almost any of it first-hand. He couldn’t even come close to reading Claire’s conscious thoughts any time one of the dreams occurred. Yet he felt the thoughts, somehow; felt the emotions she had. It was much the same as could feel his own instincts, impulses, or emotions without necessarily having corresponding, blindingly clear thoughts to accompany them.
She rarely spoke of the things he learned in the midnight hours she came to him—especially if the children were around—but he could sense the feelings and the memories as real as any of his own. Pictures would somehow form amongst his own thoughts, where he could see the Peruvian resort, or late-night fights with David when he still occupied their home. These memories (or pictures, or sensations—whatever they were) stayed with him even after the dreams ended. They might as well been his own recollections, but more akin to the memory of seeing a stage production. Actors, live in front of him, playing out a rehearsed scene. But these were no performers, nor was it a dress-rehearsal of an imagined scene. This was quite possibly someone’s real life, with Joe somehow an audience member for a show he’d never paid admission to see.
Thanks again for stopping by, Dear Reader! Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more.