Jim walked into a backyard, an unfamiliar one. Unlike the one behind his house in the semi-arid Southwest. The one with limestone broken into shards by bear grass, prickly pear, mountain mahogany, and more. This yard had grass—short, but not brown. Two women, unknown to him, sat on functional but nondescript lawn chairs. He paid little attention to them; his gaze drawn to the white-coated labradoodle lounging nearby. One of the 40-something ladies introduced the dog as Muriel. He sat down at a metal picnic table 15-feet away, expecting Muriel to come and investigate. She ignored him. He might as well have been in Silver City, where the dogs are quite laid back, disinterested in strangers.
He went inside via the back door—two steps and a landing perpendicular to the house. He passed through the simple kitchen. He had to get into town—errands to run. Light poured in from a cloudless sky through the front window. Now late afternoon, the sun would be down upon his return. He began closing the shades then they all came in, unexpectedly. Immediate and extended family—out of time and place. His sisters-in-law Alice and Cindy. His daughter, Michelle, fifteen years younger than today, and his wife Wendy.
Alice said, “Some guy called me, trying to get hold of you. Said you owed $4,400 for repairs to a car you rented.”
“What! Why the hell did he call you?”
“I don’t know. Said he tried to reach you but couldn’t.”
“Sounds like bull. Phishing, most likely. I’ve had the same number for seven years. Did the guy leave a number?”
“Yeah, sure. Here, I wrote it down.”
“Ok, thanks—I’ll straighten this jerk out.”
Jim went just ten feet away, back into the kitchen of the tiny house. “This is Jim. Did you call my sister-in-law Alice, telling her I owed you money for repairs to a rental car?”
“Uh, what’s your full name and what was the amount?”
“Never mind my name–$4,400. Now you tell ME when and where this car was rented. I haven’t rented one in several years and never turned one in damaged.”
“The car was rented in July 2019, in Norfolk, Virginia—to a James Skidmore. It needed extensive repairs.”
“Well my name’s not Skidmore. Didn’t go anywhere in Virginia in 2019 and sure as hell didn’t rent a car there. Maybe you made an honest mistake. But if you call me or Alice again, I’ll assume this is a scam and I’ll call the authorities—got it?”
“Uh, well, must be a glitch in our system. We will do some research. Thank you, Mister . . . Jim.”
Done with the call, Jim turned to find an unknown man, juice glass in hand, asking if Jim could turn up the kitchen light so he could read the calendar affixed to the refrigerator. Jim took the glass and put it in the dishwasher before brightening the room.
At that point, time was moving on to make the trip into town. Wendy wanted to go along. They drove through the neighborhood’s narrow streets, turning here and there. Finally, they came to an intersection with a highway. On an incline, the car wanted to roll back down. A bit of a challenge managing the brake and transmission awaiting a break in traffic to make it through to the other side, going left. Odd, he thought, cars haven’t had that problem for a very long time–unless they had a clutch.
After a bit, they made it alongside a very narrow median, only to wait for three people walking on the area beyond the pavement. What are people doing on an interstate? He thought. Of course, it couldn’t be an interstate. Instead of proceeding on to town, he turned off down a slight slope to a body of water—a large lake perhaps.
He began driving atop the boulders that improbably seemed connected into a roadway. To the right, he saw a water buffalo a hundred feet away, grazing on what he assumed were submerged grasses. He looked ahead, seeing another creature resembling the first. but it couldn’t be. Somehow, it was munching on the skull of a monkey—partially covered with hair, or perhaps grasses. How could a water buffalo hold a monkey’s head?
Paying attention once again to his driving, Jim noticed the boulders growing further apart—too distant to drive on. He turned the car get back up the hill but soon they were mysteriously on foot—without the vehicle. They competed with others hiking on a narrow path to the road they had left moments before. Only now, the pavement had become a congested pedestrian way, leading toward a shopping area.
They found themselves walking on bricks next to a man holding an ice cream cone. The guy reached over to refasten a bandage on the back of Wendy’s left hand. Jim was surprised. Wendy said nothing, a puzzled look on her face. The fix didn’t stick. A few yards later, the man tried again.
Jim said, “Keep your hands to yourself, buddy,” and rushed Wendy along, turning past the fellow into a food and shopping area. In front and to the left, Jim spotted an area of tables, set ten to fifteen feet apart. People sat eating and drinking. Some were listening to light acoustic music coming from a tiny stage a few feet ahead, set against a bookstore wall. Wendy headed to the restroom, walking through open spaces between the chairs.
Jim urged haste, “twilight’s coming soon.”
So ended the very, very odd dream of an early Monday morning. A sign. MUST get on with writing.