A birthday dream

An eponymous tale

Among the many books and studies my friend Silo has written there is a collection of fiction entitled Day Of The Winged Lion. As surprising and wonderfully strange as I found these stories, even stranger was the fact that the tale that gives the book its title is dedicated to me.

I thought I knew the reason for this friendly gesture; I had after all supplied the author with some of the imagery in his story. That’s what caught my attention anyway. I didn’t really consider the fact that his story involved a collective (precognitive) dream. Then, some years later the following events unfolded. Even then a long time would pass before I realized that the situation was now much more complicated. Had this fiction been dedicated to me because of the story I’d shared with him or had it been dedicated to me because sometime, in some possible future, I would find myself dreaming or being dreamed in just such a way?

There are moments when improbabilities compounded improbabilities in the most extraordinary way. Sometimes it is simply too much; then events can neither be dismissed nor accepted. They remain an indigestible lump of experience, until lost in the memory with other forgotten dreams. In fact, I’ve watched the eyes of even people who love to swap tales of the weird glaze over as they listen to this account of the ‘simply unlikely’ spiraling out of control.

When you finish this little tale you might be as perplexed as I am about what to consider stranger, the events that I am about to describe or the fact that a story written years earlier involved something so unlikely as associating me with that most improbable event, a collective precognitive dream.

Before continuing I have to apologize again for the stylistic pretensions of these anecdotes. In this case in particular the strangeness of the events set me searching for a fitting way to tell the tale. I hope my literary shortcomings don’t stand in the way of your enjoying this story, nor confuse the fact that this was a real event.

I’m going to tell you a story and I won’t be surprised or disappointed if, when I finishing telling it, you don’t believe me, even when I promise you that it’s all true. This story is so unlikely that it is hard for me to begin to understand what consequences follow from it. Hell, it’s even difficult for me to remember it, let alone believe it. But this time I have lots of witnesses. So if you don’t believe me ask Roberto or even Donna—and that really means something since Donna hates this kind of shit.

The Story goes like this; it was February the 2nd, I remember because it was my birthday. February in Toronto means that it was dark at night and just as dark late into the morning. Snow had fallen again over night and a thick layer of powder masked the dirty gray ice that covered everything for the last many weeks. The alarm wouldn’t go off for another half an hour but I’d been wakened by a strange and disturbing dream.

Everything was moving in slow motion. My thinking was confused or maybe it just seemed that way because everything was so slowed down. I had been driving my car but now I was stuck, another car blocked my way. It was cold and dark. Everything was freezing. Everything was moving so slowly.

It was early enough that even had it been summer it would have been dark but this was Candlemass, Lamas Night, Groundhog Day, my Birthday. I lay in bed, outside was the cold and ice, the snow and the dark. I lay there trying not to wake Donna who was still sleeping beside me.

My thoughts dark, congealing… frozen, like everything else around me, what was once fluid now almost solid. ‘I have to move that car. It’s blocking my way’.

Donna turned toward me. ‘Happy Birthday’ she whispered even before she opened her eyes. Whispering I began to tell her of my strange birthday dream. Even as I began speaking I couldn’t figure out exactly why it seemed any stranger, any different from many other dreams on many other winter mornings.

snow

‘I’ll push it out of my way, I’ll just drive forward slowly and I’ll push that other car to the side of the street. I have to do it slowly’.
Be careful...
‘I don’t want to smash that other car. Should I be doing this? Won’t I scratch the other car? What about my car? Why am I doing this?
Be careful...
‘I have to pay attention. Something is wrong’.
Go slowly. Be alert. Something is wrong...
It’s cold and dark and dangerous.’

Donna’s response was not what I expected. She interrupted me as my pointless tale of a slow-motion, somehow deliberate, auto accident meandered off into the obscure cold dark morning. “It’s very weird,” she mumbled still drifting up from sleep, “That’s sort of like my dream. I’m not sure what happened, but it was about cars. I think I was driving down the highway when somehow all the wheels of my car turned 90 degrees and I drove down the street sideways, but it was like nothing was strange about it, it all seemed perfectly normal.”

It was my turn to cut her off. It was a weekday and we would have to get things going if we were going to get the kids off to school on time. By the time I got out of the shower she was hunkered over a cup of coffee. ‘You better get the car warmed up’ she said, ‘it looks pretty crappy out there’.

It wasn’t easy to scrap the ice off the windshield but it was even harder to get into my car. It was one of those mornings when even the lock was frozen but I finally got the door open. The cold of the car seat cut through both my coat and my pants. I put the key in the ignition and nothing… the car was totally dead, absolutely dead.

windshield wipe2

The clock was ticking; I had to get to work and the kids had to get to school. This called for a quick solution. Luckily it lay close at hand, I’d take the kids in Donna’s car, and it was in the driveway right in front of mine. I started scrapping the ice off her windows, as I thought, ‘not that lucky’. My car was blocking the driveway and how the hell was I going to get it out of the way? I sat in her car, while the engine was warming, trying to figure out what to do. Then I realized that the bumpers of the two cars were almost kissing. ‘If I’m careful… even to my sleep addled brain it seemed an obvious solution…I can just push my car on to the road. I started to move forward… carefully. I started to lift my foot from the brake. Carefully…I got ready to let the car roll gently back. I have to be careful not to scratch the cars. Even before these thoughts were fully formed something welled up form my memory.

My thoughts dark, congealing… frozen, like everything else around me, what was once fluid now almost solid. ‘I have to move that car. It’s blocking my way’.

Everything was moving in slow motion. My thinking was confused or maybe it just seemed that way because everything was so slowed down. I had been driving my car but now I was stuck, another car blocked my way. It was cold and dark. Everything was freezing. Everything was moving so slowly.

I was laughing aloud as I pushed my car onto the side of the road and it wasn’t because I’d just had this amazing precognitive dream. The best part, and it was unbelievably lucky, was that I had told Donna about my dream. It was just the kind of thing that she would laugh off as silliness or stupidity – a dream about the future that came true. But I had told her about my dream before it happened. And it was then that I remembered that she had also had a dream about a car.

I dropped off the kids and headed down to work but I kept thinking about Donna’s smile as she laughed at the idea that there was anything more than coincidence to this… coincidence. ‘Things happen, she said, and of all the things that could happen on a winter morning this isn’t the most unlikely’.

Roberto and I were having a coffee at the little café in the Atrium of the Broadcast Centre. I began to regale him with this strange tale.

‘I’ll push it out of my way, I’ll just drive forward slowly and I’ll push that other car to the side of the street. I have to do it slowly’.
Be careful...
‘I don’t want to smash that other car. Should I be doing this? Won’t I scratch the other car? What about my car? Why am I doing this?
Be careful...
I have to pay attention’. Something is wrong. Go slowly. Be alert. Something is wrong. It’s cold and dark and dangerous.


By this point perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised when suddenly broke into my—I’d thought spellbinding—narrative. He interrupted me as my pointless tale of a slow motion, somehow deliberate; auto accident meandered off into the brightly lit atrium.

How strange’ he said gently sloshing the remaining coffee around in it’s Styrofoam cup. ‘That’s sort of like my dream. I don’t remember all of it but it was also about cars. Well, it started off being about my house and then I was driving my car down the highway and finally as naturally as anything it became an airplane and flew off.’

What could have been stranger, three of us dreaming a dream about cars, perhaps it wasn’t my birthday dream after all. Perhaps it was something else.

dream lr

For my money, I’d say all of that could stand as a good story by itself. Why not? It’s got an intriguing beginning, a less than likely middle and just that kind of quirky ending that I like. But it’s not a story. Not a made-up one anyway and that’s not where it ended. Not by a long shot.

By the time I go to my office there was a message from Donna. ‘I had a tow-truck pick the car and take it to Zoltak’s. If you come and get me after work I’ll drive you up there and we can get it’. And that of course is what we did.

mechanic


Zoltak was the name written in red letters on the sign at my mechanics. It was actually his father-in-law’s last name; his name was Saul. Donna and the kids waited in her car. I went in to talk to Saul. If my car was ready Donna would head home otherwise I’d get a ride back home with her and we’d try again later.

mechanic 2

To understand the full import of what follows you have to understand my relationship with this guy. We certainly weren’t close, even less were we really friends. Not that we didn’t like each other but our relationship was based on business. I saw him as little as possible because when I did it meant my car was broken and it was going to cost me money. But he seemed to be a good guy. I didn’t know him very well but my brother, my father and I had all taken our cars there for many years. I trusted him well enough to take his advise about my car and I thought him honest enough to feel he wouldn’t overcharge me.

That the car was ready was no surprise, it wasn’t even much a surprise that Saul was only go to charge me for the tow and not for the repair. ‘…only a loose wire, don’t worry about it’ he said with what might have been the barely detectable trace of an accent. It was what followed that floored me. ‘You’ve got to be very careful when you leave here. I had a dream about you last night. You were driving your car out of here and you got hit by a truck. So be careful.’

What about my car? Why am I doing this? Be careful. I have to pay attention’. Something is wrong.

I was stunned, not only because of what the dream was about but because this almost-stranger had dreamt of me. Saul looked up at my puzzled expression. ‘Don’t worry’ he said earnestly, ‘I know about these things I study kabbala.’

Go slowly. Be alert. Something is wrong. It’s cold and dark and dangerous.

wrench


Still reeling from my mystical mechanic’s warning I turned to tell Donna the latest installment in this dream saga. I stopped and waved to her, signaling her to leave. I’d tell her the rest when we got home, she would I expected dismiss it, not unreasonably, as another coincidence. ‘So he had a dream about cars. He is a mechanic’.

What about my car? Why am I doing this? Be careful. I have to pay attention’. Something is wrong. Go slowly. Be alert. Something is wrong. It’s cold and dark and dangerous.

When I met up with Donna at home the kids were just piling out of the car. The youngest one came dancing up to me, words pouring out of her, almost exploding with excitement, ‘We almost got killed, a big truck almost smashed into us when we left that place.’

I had been driving my car but now I was stuck. It was cold and dark. Everything was freezing. Everything was moving so slowly. My thoughts dark, congealing…frozen, like everything else around me, what was once fluid now almost solid.

She danced around her brother chanting as they raced up to the house. ‘We almost got killed, we almost got killed, we almost got killed…’

It was February that meant that the evening came early but even though the sky was turning red through the gray overcast sky for a moment it seemed that the sunlight was too bright.