Summer Dream

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

This is one of those strange inexplicable things that happen to you that you never figure out. Well, it happened to me anyway...

Summer Dream

By

Chrispy

 

When I was about ten years old, we were living in Calgary and it was wintertime. Winter in Calgary is cold and dreary, there are Chinooks, warm winter winds that can raise the temperature to almost t-shirt weather, but they are few and far between. For the most part, they are nice little breaks in the cold Canadian winter, but they tended to remind me of spring and spring was usually still far away, and being reminded of it made the winter when it came back, that much more chilling and disheartening. Like a break in the clouds that gives you a nice blast of sunshine, followed closely by a fast-moving blizzard.

The beginning of this story, however, takes place without the benefit of the Chinook winds, it is set during a long stretch of Canadian winter and the starkness of the contrast makes it more poignant to me, it makes the memory more distinct and the dream more real somehow. I’m not sure of the exact date, but it was probably after my birthday in January and still a long way away from the spring, a time of year that crushes your soul. No Christmas to look forward to, no birthday as well, winter break over and a long stretch of cold boringness that seemed like it would never end. Like staring into a winter gale, without the benefit of snow goggles and nothing to see except endless vistas of snow and seemingly dead trees. Do you get the feeling? Good, now let’s go on, and flip the script a bit, you’ll see.

I went to bed one night, feeling weighted down from an overabundance of winter, chilled to the bone from a long week of hard snows and winds that ate into my heart. Then I had the dream:

I was walking along a country lane, with summer all around me, warm winds blowing the trees, farmland all around, horse fences, and even a real horse munching on grass so green it almost hurt the eyes to look at. I was walking with a couple of my brothers, the younger ones, and a cousin or two that I hadn’t seen in a while, the view was beautiful but unfamiliar, still comforting, but strange.

They were chatting amongst themselves and I didn’t feel the need to join in the conversation yet, so I let myself take a look around and soak up the beauty of it all. We were walking along a dirt road, with a fence on one side and a ditch on the other, the horse in the field trotted over and stood right on the other side of the fence, close enough to pat if we stepped over to the fence to try, and there was a sudden gust of wind, that tussled my hair and stirred up the branches and leaves of a big tree coming up on our left.

Then I looked down and noticed something so strange it shocked me, I was holding a cold, glass bottle of milk, the old kind, with the paper top. I’d never held one before and I didn’t have enough time to get used to it, because right then I dropped it, and it smashed on the ground. Even with all the soft dirt, it could have landed on, it had somehow found a hidden stone, and the sound was awful, glass breaking and the small sploosh and gurgle of the milk hitting and soaking into the dirt.

I remember feeling really bad, disappointed and so mortified that it was a sick, sinking feeling, like a stone in my guts. I wasn’t sure why I would feel so bad about such a seemingly small loss, a bottle of milk that probably cost less than two dollars back then, but it hurt me like a punch in the stomach when you’re not prepared. It knocked the wind out of me and the pain and the out-of-place anguish of the moment was real enough to wake me up.

And I was back in my cold room, in winter, in Calgary and I will swear to this day, that I could still catch a faint whiff of wildflowers and horse manure and hear the faint echo of the grass and trees blowing in the warm summer wind.

The contrast was so stark, that it was a shock, like being dropped into a cold mountain stream on a hot summer day, literally. I had to lay there in my bed for a while and get my bearings. It was still pretty early, my alarm wouldn’t be going off for another hour or so, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. For some weird reason, I still had that sick, mortified feeling, like I had done something terrible. Something way worse than spilling some milk, and the warmth of the summer dream was overshadowed by this feeling of disappointment in myself for losing that bottle of milk. I couldn’t even understand why I was holding it in the first place, and the entire dream was so inconsistent with my reality at the time that it stuck in my head. Even today while I write this, if I close my eyes I can still feel the shock of waking up in that room after the dream of summer and spoilt milk.

I remember spending the day trying to explain that dream to my family at breakfast, and my friends at school, but every time I tried, I completely failed to catch the feeling of it. The contrast between the warmth of summer and the cold of my winter room. I couldn’t even begin to describe the out-of-proportion despair I felt at the smashing of the milk bottle. The realness of it, and the depth of the feelings that it invoked in me, was lost in the telling. I mean, there’s not much to it, a walk on a summer lane and the breaking of a milk bottle is not exactly a riveting tale of adventure and excitement. I do remember feeling very troubled by it, by the weirdness of it, and the disappointment at not being able to describe it properly.

But, like a lot of things in our childhood, it eventually faded and then disappeared altogether into the abyss of forgetfulness, lost in the clank and clutter of a ten-year-olds messy memories. Like that solitary sock that gets kicked into the dust bunnies at the back of the space beneath the bed. I’m sure part of me would have missed its strangeness and the mystery of it, but the shortness and seemingly meaninglessness of it overcame that ten-year-olds need for magic and the unknown. Going, going, gone.

Now for the strange bit. The part that defies all credibility and steps right out into the land of the impossible. I know for a fact that you’re going to have a tough time believing this, hell, part of me still struggles with it. But it happened, it really did, and even after almost 40 years, I still don’t understand it.

That summer, probably July or August, we were sent to stay with our aunt and uncle out in British Columbia, a place called Wynndel, just outside of Creston. I didn’t know it at the time, I just thought my mom wanted us to get a taste of the country life, get out of the city for a bit and see how the other half lived. I heard later, however, that she’d had some money problems that year, we were on welfare then, not the first or the last time either. They call it social services now I think, or maybe income support, something innocuous and completely at odds with what the nightmare of it really encompasses for a single mother with kids. Anyway, not to put too fine a point on it, money problems were a stones-throw away at the best of times.

I don’t know if she fell behind on the rent or put a bill or two off longer than she should have, but we had to move, and right away. I’m still not sure of the exact details, but she needed to move us to another house and wanted us out of the way while she went about it.  She sent us out there for a month, me my two younger brothers, Sheldon and Lorne, and we weren’t very happy about it. I don’t think my aunt and uncle were too pleased either, but we were family and back then that was more than just a word, it was as real as the blood coursing through your veins; just as inescapable and just as life-giving as water or air.

We were city kids, all our friends were in the city, we knew where everything was, we were in our comfort zone and this would be as uncomfortable for us as our young brains could possibly imagine. Staying for a whole month with essential strangers, no offense Aunty Ruby, Uncle Alex, and cousins Troy, Michele, and Rainy. I’m not trying to sound ungrateful or belittle what they did for us and the sacrifices they had to make to keep us with them for that month, but we didn’t know them that well back then and a month is a hell of a long time when you’re a ten-year-old kid in the summer.

Wynndel is a town so small you could walk from one end to the other in the time it would have taken us to walk to the mall at home, and we lived five or six blocks from downtown at the time. But we didn’t have a choice in the matter and we knew that putting up too much of a struggle wouldn’t help. So reluctantly we went, and we stubbornly tried not to enjoy it, as any kid would.

My aunt, uncle, and cousins tried to make the best of it but I’m sure it was hard on them. Coming from the city as we did, we weren’t used to getting up early, going outside to play, and doing chores. We were used to sleeping in in the summer, watching cartoons on tv, and mom didn’t work, so that didn’t leave a hell of a lot of chores for us to do. It’s not like we had to bale the hay or paint the barn in our normal lives. So, when that day came, and our aunt sent us up to the neighbors to get some milk, it wasn’t unexpected, it was just another way for her to try and keep us busy and get us some much-needed exercise.

Cousin Rainy (short for Lorraine) took us up the hill to the neighbors, which was a farm about two blocks away (in my city mind everything is still measured in blocks) and they had cows. My aunt sent all three of us with her, and we didn’t mind. We were bored and the novelty of seeing actual cows was something new and getting out of the house was okay too.

After checking out the cows, petting them, and letting the calves suck on our hands (a real mind-blower for a city kid, yucky but cool) we asked for the milk, and as soon as we got it things got a little strange for me. The milk was in cold, damp, glass bottles, with paper tops, and for some reason that freaked me out a little. Things got stranger as we went along.

We took a different route on the way back, this time down a long winding dirt road, with a ditch on one side and a fenced field on the other. The field was part of my aunt and uncles land, a part that they didn’t use, and I could hear my cousin explaining to my brothers about how the horse belonged to the neighbors we just met, and the milk was some kind of deal they’d made as a trade for boarding the horse on their land.

 

At least that’s what I thought she was saying, by that time I was having some trouble hearing, there seemed to be a kind of ringing in my ears and my skin was tingling a bit. Sounds were acting strange too, there was a weird echo to everything and it seemed kind of muffled as well. I said an echo, but after thinking back on that moment for so long I’ve come up with a new term for what I was hearing: a PRE-ECHO. I know it sounds weird, but that’s what was happening.  I was hearing things slightly sooner than the actual sounds that were occurring around me and the overlap was like an echo but happening before the actual sounds.

My eyes started to act up too, there was a slight blur to everything, like when your eyes are watering a bit, but even blinking wouldn’t clear them. I thought I was going to faint, maybe I’d gotten too much sun and was having heat stroke or something, maybe all this fresh air and farm-fresh food were reacting badly with my city-born body, whatever it was it wasn’t good.

We kept walking and came around a bend in the road, and now the pre-echo was so far spread apart that I could actually tell what was about to be said and by whom. My cousin would say this, and I just knew that my brother was going to say that, it was so strange. I even had a part in the script, and I couldn’t help but say my lines as were preordained. I tried to stop myself, to try and break out of this...this weirdness, but I couldn’t.  I was stuck, like a fly in amber, only the amber was moving, and I was being dragged along with it. I was like some walking, talking puppet being controlled by some sinister force pulling invisible, unbreakable strings. And I was getting scared. That’s when it happened.

I knew I was going to turn my head before I did it, and I knew that the horse was going to come trotting over to the fence, close enough to reach out and touch, and I knew that there was going to be a gust of wind and the tree over to the left was going to sway in the breeze…and then I remembered the dream. The dream that I’d had about six months ago, in the winter, in the city. The one that I had completely forgotten until right this minute…and then I looked down and saw the milk bottle in my hands. Everything came rushing together at once, my ears popped, and I freaked out…AND I DROPPED THE BOTTLE!

I knew it would smash before it hit the ground, and I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to explain why I had dropped it, nobody would believe it. I did feel bad about it, stupid, clumsy, and wasteful, but even with all that going through my mind, part of me was relieved. The pre-echo was gone, the blur was gone, and things were back to normal. At least as normal as they could be.

Now, the question that I’ve been mulling over all this time is this: was remembering the dream the reason I dropped the bottle or did somehow dropping the bottle cause some kind of time loop that connected me back to the dream?  Did that bottle breaking somehow force a dream into my head, six months before it has happened? That’s crazy talk, but your guess is as good as mine, I still don’t get it, and as I said, I’ve been mulling this over for almost 40 years.

 

The End


Submitted: October 11, 2021

© Copyright 2021 chrispy. All rights reserved.

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Danni Lee

Wonderful. I love the pictures you can paint in my mind. Thank you for writing and adding more to your collection. I love your stories.

Wed, October 13th, 2021 1:49am

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