Thursday, December 9, 2010

Perfect Dreaming

Late Summer.
A boy sits alone next to a stream, surrounded by trees. He thinks of his family and watches flecks of sunset light playing along the tiny curves the flowing water makes as it rushes out of sight deeper into the forest. Mesmerized, he feels calm in this place as he seldom does among people. A wind comes gently to him while he sits, carrying a strange smell with it; the boy recognizes burning wood and mosquito repellent faintly before the dense vegetation absorbs the breeze and all is still again. He likes the stillness. He knows that voices will be calling his name soon, but he doesn't want to go back. He wants to be planted in this place like one of the trees or bushes he is hiding amongst. Only that would hurt his mother and he knows how much she's already been hurt and he thinks it would be unfair to her. He thinks his father shouldn't be hiding when she misses him so much and maybe if he came back the boy could leave and it wouldn't be so hard on her. But maybe his father likes the stillness too and can't come back. The boy wonders about this and then drinks from the stream. Slowly, carefully. He doesn't want to disturb the flow and he doesn't want anyone to find him and make him go back. The sun is a golden orb through the criss-cross lattice of the forest and the boy can look at it without squinting. It reminds him of a cat's eye and that reminds him of the Cheshire Cat from his favourite book. The riddle master, dancing and laughing and even disappearing! The boy wants to disappear too, and he shuts his eyes tight and tries hard. He thinks of the Cheshire Cat and holds his breath and digs his fingers into the soft soil like a plant, but it's too difficult and he lets out a loud "psshhhh" sound which disrupts the glassy quiet. An animal rustles at the disturbance, somewhere behind him. He feels silly for playing make believe and making noises that could give him away. They'll come soon, he thinks. If his mother comes, he won't hide. He wants to hide though, even from her. Even if she cries and he has to bite his tongue to stop himself from crying. The sun is almost down and the stream looks darker than the ground, but he doesn't mind so much now that it's quiet again. He feels the coolness of the soil on his hands and remembers the time his father took him camping up north when his mom still let him go on weekends. They caught a big black catfish and it took hours to get in because it was fighting so hard, but they finally did. He remembers being all wet and dirty and watching his father hit the fish again and again on its broad, smooth head until it stopped thrashing and went still. He felt bad about that, but it was better somehow to see it still and then watch his father smile at him like they just saved a princess in a story. But he knew it was only a fish and not a dragon and there was no princess to save. He knew what his father thought of the stories he liked to read in private about imaginary worlds and strange creatures and he knew not to be silly except with his mom because she liked those stories too. She enjoyed reading almost as much as he did and he liked to see her relaxing with a book after dinner when everything was put away and he could do as he wished. He didn't know what his father did after dinner. He thought maybe he worked since that's what his mom said he used to do a lot when they were still together. The sky turns purple as the boy thinks of his father leaving and then about something one of his teachers told him about it not being his fault. The boy didn't feel guilty for his father going away and so he hadn't said anything and that made the teacher hug him. He felt sorrier for her; she seemed sad and he didn't know why it should be anyone's fault that people go away. He wanted to leave too, after all. Except he knew it would be bad for his family if he did that. He looked at the sound where the stream was and remembered the fish his father had killed. It was hiding too, in the river. Maybe it was just like him, thought the boy. Just enjoying the stillness and quiet and the water flowing past, but then it got hungry and that's how it was caught. It was this way for him also, he knew. If he didn't go back, he would get hungry and lonely and that was only another kind of hunger really. He wanted this forest to feed him and take care of him so he could stay and not make his mother worry, but then he heard her and she was crying. She was calling for him and he thought for a moment that it was the stream and not her voice at all, but the moon was out and he saw her coming through the trees and felt the stillness slipping away. She called again and he knew she was real this time because she was crying hard and he bit his tongue, but stood up in the moonlight so she could see him through the perfect dreaming darkness.

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