Dreamed 1990/3/27 by Chris Wayan
I wake a bench in an empty church. I look up. Threads cross the nave, like faint suspension bridges. They gather into bundles and form a thread-bridge out the window, across a gap, to the roof of the Science Academy. From church to science...
A man walks in and sees where I'm gazing. He says "Hey, the bridge! I remember climbing up there as a kid. We all did, to play baseball on the roof. I wonder if kids still do?" He starts climbing the spider-bridge. I follow him, curious. No game today. No kids. I can see why. Sharp metal plates with curled-up edges cover part of the roof now--shin slashers. You'd have to keep their position in mind at all times, playing, and accept some cuts as inevitable. I'd just play in the park instead...
On the street below, a train pulls up and yuppies in suits pour out. A bunch of them come over and look up at us. "Hey, John!" yells one to my friend. "How you doing? Looking at the ol' ballpark?" They talk a while, across the gossamer gap. They're all doing well; grown beyond childish roof-games, making money, raising families. John, on the other hand, is the only one who stayed here, didn't go to business school, didn't learn high-tech... he just wrestled with deep feelings, wordless things the others felt but walked away from. He looks ashamed, talking with his old teammates, hearing all they know and have...
I know the feeling. I'm like John. Never got on the train, just stayed on the roof, wrestling with childhood feelings....
And that's why I have the job I do. The only one I could get. And it's time to get to it!
I slide down the thread-chute off the science building and go relieve the night bodyguard. I'm the day shift. I guard a crime boss. Not that anyone here cares what he does--he has money, that's good enough for them. This is a thieves' world--they're having a Crime Convention right now, in a big hall, with balloons and banners saying
Find my boss easily, by the drumming around him. You see, a while back, he pissed off a rival boss, who hit him with a dose of the parasite causing boombox syndrome. His body started playing pop songs over and over and over... Boombox syndrome normally drives a victim insane, but my boss isn't that musical, it was just noise to him. Over time he gained partial control over it--he's not cured yet, but he pushed it down to just a couple of repetitious deep bass notes and some drumming. It's bearable like this, if annoying. It's even useful when you want to find him in a crowd. There's a silver lining in every cloud.
Just as I reach him, I notice a bodyguard for his rival, nearby. The guy's not guarding his boss, though; he's stalking a third VIP. I happen to know this guard is a double agent, so I'm not sure if we can expect an assassination or a friendly chat. But the third boss's guards don't wait to find out--they pull their guns and start shooting! Right into the crowd. Idiots! Of course all the other guards fire back. In seconds the whole hall's a warzone.
I yell "SWIM, Boss!" I duck my head and mime doing the Old Australian Crawl too, and our swimming motions work as planned--they summon water around us, knee-deep at first, but soon thigh-deep and belly-deep. It fades away into mist a few yards off, but who cares? It's deep enough to shield us from some of the gunfire already. I yell "Duck your head, get right under, do the breast stroke!" I hold my breath underwater till the gunfire subsides. I'm telling you, my boss is a survivor. That $10,000 he spent on shamanic swimming lessons was money well spent, at least I think so right now, safely underwater...
Even though I laughed at my boss at the time and told him it was partly a scam. See, I knew the guy who taught it, and I'd asked him once where HE learned shamanic swimming. He laughed. "Oh, a swim coach taught me how to do it for $10. It's easy. But your boss and guys in his league, they won't take it seriously unless they pay serious money. So I charge $10 for the lesson and $9,990 for their egos."
And why not? He went to Business School. Where they taught him the Code of Business Ethics:
A NOTE FROM 2000
At the time, I was working in a library a stone's throw (and how I longed to throw it) from the Reaganite thinktank of the Hoover Institute, and the Stanford Business School. An army of business suits occupied Stanford all through the eighties.
I never sat in on any of the business classes, but I learned plenty about capitalism at that job. The starting salaries of biz school grads were triple mine. And why not? I was merely productive, while they were the anointed at the top of the predation pyramid.
The Feds had just caught Stanford padding expenses on its research contracts, but the university didn't take those stolen millions back from the upper management who'd done the padding. Instead, a few months later, they laid off fifteen per cent of their rank and file--including me. The bodyguards got mowed down, but the crimebosses...
Oh well, Stanford hired a nice personnel-management company to teach us sacrificial lay-offs how to cope with the lean mean Reaganesque job market. They taught us elementary shamanic visualizations dressed up as stress reduction, and charged Stanford an arm and a leg for it. And Stanford paid. Because nothing's too good for our (ex)workers.
Crime pays generously.
After all, it can afford to.
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