Kathy

Last night being the first of several at my sister’s house for a late Christmas celebration, I slept lightly, and I remembered all of my dreams in the morning. Most of them included the theme of bringing order out of chaos, needing to clean up a large area filled with trash. Sometimes the mess was at work, sometimes at home. Invariably I was aware that a few valuable items were scattered within the trash, and I feared that they would be lost. Most of the other workers in the various dreams seemed content, though, to stand around and converse aimlessly with one another rather than getting involved in the work.

Oddly enough, Kathy appeared in two of those dreams. Kathy and I attended the same elementary school and junior high school, in which we were in the same homeroom. We also attended the same high school, but followed different paths which rarely crossed. She was one of the popular girls—cheerleader, athlete, pep club, and student government. I was involved in the band and orchestra, the school newspaper, and the spring musicals. Kathy was one of the truly attractive girls in junior high and senior high school. She was lovely in appearance, but not vain, gentle in manner, kind without being condescending. She was one of a trio of girls who always sat together at the beginning of the school year, when the teacher organized the desks in alphabetic order. Later in the school year, when the teacher allowed us to choose our own desks, the three friends remained together. Only if the teacher tried to rearrange the seating to split apart friends (for better order in the classroom, or so they said) did those three become scattered; and of course many opportunities arose during the course of the day for them to reconnect—to eat lunch together, or exercise together in Physical Education, or visit in the hallways between classes.

In one of last night’s dreams, Kathy was sitting at a table when I walked past. She stood, hugged me, kissed me on the mouth, smiled and said something friendly that I can no longer remember, and then sat again. I can assure you that in all our years of school together, she never did such a thing to me—not even once.

In the later dream, she and I both knew that it was Tuesday and that the lunch that was to be served on Tuesday was particularly repulsive. I knew of a couple of good restaurants across the street from where we were cleaning, and I wanted to invite her to join me for lunch. To the end of the dream, though, I failed to work up the courage to approach her with my invitation.

This morning, with Kathy still at the edges of my memory, I typed into Google® her name and our hometown. I learned that she had graduated college, gotten married, worked as a nurse, and had two sons. She was respected and well-liked by her coworkers and the patients she served. However, Kathy died almost one year ago. The comments that followed her obituary glowed with praise for her life of service and her kind and helpful personality.

I cannot guess what brought Kathy’s image into my dreams last night. Of all my classmates from those early days of school, she is scarcely the most memorable. We never became friends, as we truly had few common interests. Of all the dreams in all the unfamiliar bedrooms in all my travels over the years, why did she have to come into mine last night? J.

 

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The other Joseph

While I am studying Joseph the son of Jacob in the book of Genesis, I am also learning about Joseph the husband of Mary in the book of Matthew. Beyond sharing a name, the two men are similar in other ways as participants in God’s plan to save his people from their enemies.

Mary’s husband is called a carpenter in English translations of the Bible, but “builder” might be a better translation of his occupation. Joseph probably worked more with stone than with wood, and he helped to build more houses and public buildings than tables and chairs. When the wise men came with gifts for the King of the Jews, they found Jesus and his mother in a house in Bethlehem–Joseph may have built that house during the infancy of Jesus. Joseph appears to have died between the childhood of Jesus (He is mentioned when Jesus is twelve.) and the preaching career of Jesus when Jesus was in his thirties. From the cross, Jesus assigned his mother to the care of his disciple John, something he would not have done if Joseph were still alive.

Early Christian traditions assign later ages to both Mary and Joseph, but those traditions are based more on Greek attitudes about marriage and family than on life for Palestinian Jews of the first century. Mary was probably fifteen years old, give or take a year, when an angel appeared to her and told her that she would have a son without the help of a man. Joseph was probably about thirty then. Women were married when they were in their teens, but men did not marry until they were successful in their careers and could support families. Nevertheless, marriages were based on love as well as convenience. Mary and Joseph were betrothed, which was a formal agreement between Joseph and Mary’s parents (but which probably included Mary’s acceptance and approval of Joseph as a husband). The wedding had not yet happened, but no doubt wedding plans were being made. On the day of the wedding, the groom with his friends would come to the house of the bride and escort the bride and her family and friends to his house. The celebration of the event included food and drink, music and dancing, and much merry-making. Communities looked forward to the joy of a wedding, and many wedding celebrations lasted several days.

Imagine Joseph’s consternation when he learned that Mary was going to give birth to a baby. Joseph knew that he was not the baby’s father. He had the right to demand that Mary be punished, even that she be stoned to death by the community for the sin of adultery. No doubt he found it impossible to believe Mary’s story of an announcement by an angel about her son. Being a righteous man, Joseph did not want Mary killed, so he was planning a quiet divorce–breaking the betrothal before the wedding could take place–when an angel spoke to him and explained the situation to him.

When Joseph accepted his pregnant bride, the whole town of Nazareth must have smiled and winked. Joseph was acting like a man who had been enjoying the privileges of a husband before the wedding day. That happened from time to time, then as now, and people knew that such behavior was sinful, but they tended to regard it as a natural fault rather than a grave sin. To protect Mary and her child, Joseph was willing to allow the appearance of guilt in his life, even though he had done nothing that was wrong. Joseph son of Jacob, in Egypt, was also treated as guilty though he had done nothing wrong. His master’s wife accused Joseph of attempted rape, and for that he was thrown into prison. Both men named Joseph became pictures of Jesus, who also was punished for sins he did not commit, taking guilt upon himself that others would be spared and protected.

In Egypt, Joseph son of Jacob was able to care for his father and brothers and their families. He became their protector during the famine and kept them safe from hunger. In Nazareth and Bethlehem, Joseph Mary’s husband was also a protector. Mary and her son would have been vulnerable to poverty and starvation had Joseph not taken her as his wife. In this way also, both men are pictures of Jesus who protects his people in a world that is filled with dangers.

Finally, dreams are important to both men. While he was a teen, Joseph son of Jacob had dreams that foretold the future, picturing how his family would bow down to him and honor him. Later, he interpreted the dreams of others. Joseph Mary’s husband heard from angels in a series of dreams that guided him to make Mary his wife, to take her to Egypt to protect the life of Jesus, and to return to the Promised Land after the death of King Herod. Not every dream is a message from God. Most of our dreams are shaped either by our hopes or by our fears. When he chooses, though, God can communicate through dreams, as he did in the case of both men named Joseph. Before accepting a dream as a message from God, though, the dreamer should first compare that dream to the message of God recorded in the Bible. If the dream contradicts the Bible in any way, the dream is just a dream and no message from God. J.

 

Christ in Genesis: Jacob’s Ladder

When Jacob had deceived his father and claimed his brother’s blessing, he had to run away from home. Jesus willingly gives to Christians the reward that Jesus deserved for obeying his father’s will, but Esau plots to kill his brother Jacob. Rebekah sends Jacob to her family, a place of safety, until enough time has passed that Esau will have lost his anger.

His first night away from home, Jacob meets Jesus. He takes a stone for his pillow and lays down to sleep. “And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12). Jesus stood above the ladder and spoke to Jacob, renewing the promise he had made to Abraham and Isaac. The same triple blessing is spoken: Jacob’s family will become a mighty nation, they will live on the land where Jacob was sleeping, and through that family on that land all the nations of the world will be blessed. (Again, the promise spoken by Jesus to Jacob is the promise fulfilled by Jesus when he comes to obey his Father and to sacrifice himself on a cross so our sins can be forgiven and we can be welcomed into the Kingdom of God.)

Jacob takes this dream to indicate that he has been sleeping in the house of God and at the gate of heaven (Genesis 28:17). He sets up a landmark to remember the place. Then he does what sinners so often do: he tries to bargain with God. Although God has made unconditional promises to Jacob, Jacob offers God a deal—if God will keep his promise to take care of Jacob, then the Lord will be Jacob’s God and the landmark Jacob made will be God’s house. Moreover, Jacob promises God one-tenth of Jacob’s wealth. God did not ask for any of this. He blessed Jacob because God’s nature is to love, to bless, and to show mercy. God’s plan, as described in his promise, is much bigger than the fortunes of Jacob. Yet Jacob takes this promise personally, thinking only of what’s in this promise for Jacob.

Not only did Jacob see Jesus at the top of the ladder; in the ladder itself he saw a picture of Jesus. We know this because of the words of Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51). Jesus is the only Way to the Father, the only way from this sinful earth to God’s perfect new creation. Jesus is the ladder, although if escalators had been invented when the book of Genesis was written, they would have been an even better picture of Jesus, bearing us up to heaven at no effort to ourselves.

Untitled–first Friday fiction

Carl often thought of himself as the man in the Eagles’ song, driving down the road with seven women on his mind. When he heard that song, he often could identify seven women who all were in his thoughts, though he doubted that any of them wanted to own him or wanted to kill him.

There was the young woman at church, vulnerable and yet appealing. He prayed for her; he wished he could make some gesture toward her that would comfort her, but anything he did would probably frighten her instead.

Then there was a woman who lived a few blocks from Carl. Sometimes they passed each other in the mornings when they were both taking their walks. She had long, straight, black hair, deep brown eyes, and a shy smile. Carl had never spoken with her. By luck, not by effort, he had been able to identify her house. Carl knew that she had children; he did not know whether or not she had a husband.

There was also the Olympic athlete he had seen on TV. She was also a brunette, with sparkling brown eyes and a lovely smile. Of course she was in top physical condition. They would never meet, but Carl had downloaded pictures of her onto his work computer. When the screen-saver brought up his slideshow, he would pause in his work and wait for her to appear.

Speaking of work, there was the intern with the blonde hair and the bright blue eyes. She was polite and friendly, probably considering Carl neither an interest nor a threat because of the difference in their ages.

There was the supervisor of another department, efficient without being unfriendly, able to charm customers and coworkers with equally sincere interest in whatever they had to say. A few months ago, she had announced a name change. A little Internet research revealed that she was changing from her married name to her maiden name. Carl wondered if that signaled a divorce or merely a desire to use her family name professionally from now on. He didn’t see her often, but when their paths crossed he generally managed to exchange hellos with her.

Carl remembered the woman from his department who had left for a better job more than three years ago. Carl still missed her. Every day on the way to work he passed the building where her new office was located. He hadn’t seen her since the day she left, but he still marked the anniversary of that day with regret and gloom.

The seventh woman on Carl’s mind had, in a sense, replaced number six. Not that she had been hired to do the same job, or even that she had been hired shortly after number six left the business. Carl was starting to feel the same glow in her presence that he once had felt when he was near number six. Through Facebook, Carl had discovered her birthday. It happened to be the same day that he had been marking in memory of number six. If for no other reason, Carl found that coincidence a reason to consider number seven an appropriate replacement for number six in his mind.

Not that Carl would make an inappropriate advance toward any of these seven women. Carl liked to think of them. He liked to be with them. He didn’t want to marry any of them, and Carl would never want or attempt a one-night stand. Some men had crushes on singers like Taylor Swift or actresses like Amy Adams. Carl’s crushes were (with the exception of the Olympic athlete) on people a little closer to home, but he was no more intending to stalk or to try to seduce these women than the vast majority of fans who follow celebrities.

In his own mind, though, Carl could imagine a closer relationship with any of the seven women on his mind. As he headed to his car at the end of the day, number seven was most on his mind. Before he started the engine, Carl decided that the songs he heard on the way home that evening would represent a conversation between Carl and number seven.

Of course he invited the lady to go first. Her opening song proved to be “You’re my Best Friend,” by Queen. Carl flattered himself that number seven might say some of those lyrics to him, or might be thinking that way about him. At the same time, Carl had a strong negative association to the word “friend.” “Let’s just be friends” was a kind way of saying, “I have no romantic interest in you.” Often, in Carl’s experience, the woman who said “Let’s just be friends” was the woman who would disappear from his life (if not from his mind) in a way that was distinctly unfriendly.

After a string of commercials, Carl’s reply came on the radio. The song was “Every Breath You Take” by the Police. This song was widely treated as a love song—it had even been sung at weddings—but it was a song about obsession and a claim to ownership, not about genuine love. Carl could imagine himself watching number seven as closely as the song described. He knew that a day or two of that behavior would be creepy to his coworker and might easily draw a reprimand from their boss.

Her next song was “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” by Jim Croce. Carl did not have to stretch to fit this story-telling song into the conversation. It was an unsubtle warning about men who take an interest in women who have already found their life’s partner. The title character, accustomed to taking everything he liked, took an interest in a woman who “looked nice.” This interest led to a brawl with her husband, and by the end of the brawl, Mr. Brown was not in a very good condition.

The deejays chatted about traffic and weather and played a few more commercials before Carl had a chance to answer the warning that had been given. His answer turned out to be Survivor’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Any Longer.” The anthem was a love ballad so schmaltzy that even the writer and singer seemed embarrassed by it. (Carl remembered the group joking about the song at the beginning and ending of their music video.) Calling his beloved a candle in the window was barely passible; promising to land a boat and “throw away the oar” was definitely over the top. After the clear warning involved in the story of Mr. Brown, Carl knew that he would never dare such a bold confession of love.

Number seven’s answer, though, was as enigmatic as the previous four songs had been forthright. She replied with Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride.” The song was still playing as Carl reached his home. He spent the rest of the evening trying to decide what the song meant. Was it an invitation to some sort of mutual involvement? Or was it a reminder that all Carl had to enjoy was fantasy and dreams? Carl knew that he would have to ponder those questions for a while before he would arrive at an answer. J.

 

First Friday Fiction Flashback — 1985

Grant Caldwell woke from a strange dream. As was his custom on Saturday mornings, he lay in bed for several minutes, contemplating life in general, and considering sleeping a little longer. Realizing he was not tired, he reached over and switched on the radio. A minute later, a tune was running through his head, and his dream was fading into forgotten memories. This was unfortunate, as several clues about the next few days had been hidden in that particular dream. Grant would have to survive without the benefit of these clues.

Whistling, Grant climbed out of bed, stripped off his pajamas, and wandered into the bathroom. In about fifteen minutes he showered, shaved, dressed, and completed the rest of his morning routine. Then he casually strayed into the main room of the apartment.

Grant shared the apartment with a friend named Jim, but Jim had left for work before Grant was awake. He would not return until evening, so Grant had the place to himself for hours. He picked up Jim’s clothing from the floor and threw it into Jim’s closet. Then Grant crossed the room, lifted the blind, and looked out the large window. Across the street was a grocery store. As a view, it was not exciting, but the store was convenient when Grant and Jim were short on food. Grant first looked at the sky, which was clear and sunny—it promised to be another warm day. Then he looked down into the parking lot, curious to see who was starting their day shopping for groceries.

His eyes were drawn immediately to a young couple, about the same age as Grant, strolling aimlessly through the parking lot, as if they were paying attention to nothing in particular. The girl looked familiar to Grant, as if he should know her from somewhere. (He did not understand that this feeling was an echo from his forgotten dream.) As it happened, though, Grant did know the girl. Her name was Marsha Sorkin, and she was one of Grant’s fellow students at the College of Osbourne.

The man with Marsha was Tim Bernard. The two of them were reputed to be leaders of a radical group of Osbourne youth, said to be responsible for much destruction of property. They were anarchists, vocally opposed to local and national government, and they were also against corporations and businesses. Rumors about the band were varied. Some citizens claimed that the group was communist, while others said they were merely hoodlums glorifying their havoc by claiming a cause. At any rate, the damage they caused was common knowledge to everyone in Osbourne except for the police force and the local judge.

Marsha, Tim, and those that gathered around them were blamed for anti-American slogans painted on the high school and on the railroad station. They were accused of slashing tires and breaking windows of cars belonging to the members of the city council during the past three council meetings. On the Fourth of July, they had disrupted the parade, first with chanting and then by blocking the street, waving flags and singing revolutionary songs. They were believed to be responsible for igniting the scheduled firework show in the middle of the afternoon to spoil the traditional nighttime celebration. The mayor of Osbourne had publicly accused them of setting the blaze that destroyed his house during his family’s vacation in August. They were said to be the ones who stormed into the First National Bank the Saturday before Labor Day on a vandalism spree that ruined the interior of the bank and netted the perpetrators several thousand dollars.

In spite of these rumors, neither Marsha nor Tim had spent even an hour in jail. They had been questioned by police, they had testified in public hearings, and they had been quoted in the newspapers. Although their philosophy clearly was anarchic, no evidence had been produced to warrant their arrest. Parents shuddered as they awaited the next terrorist activity and warned their children to avoid Marsha and Tim.

The two of them were treated like heroes by many of their fellow college students. No one doubted that they were responsible for all the violence in Osbourne. Considerable doubt existed, though, about the relationship of Marsha and Tim. Even though they appeared together at social functions, both claimed full abstinence from romance, let alone sexual relations, for the good of their cause. No one ever saw them express affection toward each other. On the other hand, it was widely whispered that they were sleeping together. Looking down upon them as they patrolled the parking lot, Grant speculated that those rumors were false. They were too intent upon their next mission to be distracted by one another.

Grant had never joined their group, although he and Marsha had a nodding acquaintance. Grant, like many people his age, was disillusioned with politicians, with business leaders, and with the military. He had no love for the system of capitalism, nor did he trust the mechanics of representative democracy. Still, Grant had never viewed violence as a solution to society’s problems. His interest in Marsha and Tim was not political, and his opinion of them was not negative.

As he watched them casually wander around the parking lot, Grant became convinced of two things. Both these convictions were the result of his forgotten dream, but by this moment Grant no longer recalled even that he had dreamed. The first thought in his mind was that Marsha and Tim were planning a raid on the grocery store, much like their attack upon the bank three weeks earlier. The second thought that accompanied that awareness was that Marsha was beautiful, perhaps the most beautiful woman Grant ever had seen. On an impulse, he left his apartment, ran down the stairs, and crossed the street to he could speak with Marsha Sorkin.

His idea that Marsha was the most beautiful woman he had seen did not dissipate as he approached her. Her beauty filled his eyes, although it was a stark beauty, unsoftened by any gentle touch. She had jet-black hair, parted in the middle and hanging straight down her back past her shoulders; deep brown eyes with a core of ice in the center of each; a narrow face, with a grim line for a mouth; and sharp animated moves that showed command of the situation that not even her escort, Tim Bernard, could imitate.

Grant had rushed so quickly to talk with Marsha that he had not considered what to say when he reached her. “Hello,” was an obvious opening word, but after that he was lost. He felt inadequate, unworthy, and out of place. He was about to retreat in befuddled embarrassment, as Tim merely nodded in reply, but Marsha was more gracious.

Smiling, she returned his hello and added, “Are you going to the Yellow Ribbon Dance tonight?”

“Uh…yes… that is, if I can find a date,” Grant stammered, forgetting that he was scheduled to work that night. He had also forgotten that never had any intention of attending the dance. He even forgot to ask why she called it the Yellow Ribbon Dance and not the Homecoming Dance.

“I hope you do,” Marsha said, smiling sweetly. “I’d like you to be there.” Tim nodded again, remotely, and the two walked away.

His head swimming with euphoria, Grant wandered in the direction of the store. He did not notice the number of young people gathering around him, since he was reliving again and again his brief conversation with Marsha. “She’d like me to be at the dance,” Grant said to himself in amazement. “All I need is a date.”

A nearby conversation distracted Grant from his daydream. One girl was distributing unlabeled bottles. Another girl asked, as she was handed a bottle, “What’s in it?”

“Acid,” she was told.

“I can’t take it,” she said, returning the bottle. “I don’t think my pastor would approve of this.”

Grant winced. Pastor Smith had always accused Grant of having a rebellious streak. He knew that the good pastor would not have approved of anyone’s participation in what was certain to become a riot. Grant thought that he probably should just go back to his apartment and watch the action.

He never had that choice. Before he could turn around, someone at the front of the crowd yelled a signal. The entire mass flooded through the doors of the grocery store. Grant had no choice but to run with the others.

Carnage reigned inside the store. Customers and clerks ran screaming as the terrorists emptied each cash register. Shelves of stock were thrown to the floor, windows were broken, and acid was thrown in every direction. Those who followed Marsha and Tim screamed and ran around the store breaking every fragile item they could find.

Grant dodged the broken glass, the acid, the spilled produce, and as many people as he could. Running at full speed, he was the first to reach the manager’s office in the far corner of the store. The office was set apart and the door was not clearly marked. Therefore, none of the rioters followed Grant into the room.

Inside, the manager was talking urgently into the telephone. Behind him in the well-furnished office was a case of hunting rifles. Around the paneled room were photographs and hunting trophies. Several comfortable chairs and a large desk filled the room, which was richly carpeted. With a dash of insight, Grant realized that the manager of this store must also be its owner.

He had no time to think, though. In an instant, Grant jumped to the desk, ripped the cord from the telephone, and threw the telephone at the case of rifles. The glass shattered.

Fred, the manager and owner of the store, rose to his feet. In a threatening voice, he bellowed, “You shouldn’t have done that!”

Grant laughed. “Why not?” he snarled in an insolent tone. He had not planned to be violent, but he knew that he must end the manager’s conversation.

In the distance, sirens sounded. They obviously were coming closer.

Fred smiled.

For once, the police had noticed that something bad was happening in Osbourne. As soon as they got Fred’s call, they were ready to respond. When the call ended abruptly, they hurried even faster. In less than a minute, five squad cars were in the parking lot of the grocery store.

When the police arrived, the members of the mob were already scattering. The officers rounded up as many delinquents as they could, and they fired warning shots over the heads of those who escaped arrest. Almost immediately those shots were answered by return fire from inside the store. As one officer fell, the others turned and fired through the broken windows of the grocery store.

After a moment the shooting stopped. For a brief time all was quiet. The police had only one casualty on their side. Cautiously they approached the store. The first to look inside saw Marsha sobbing over her fallen comrades. She put up a token struggle as two officers raised her by her arms. Then she let herself be led toward the manager’s office. Other police officers checked the fallen terrorists for signs of life. They found none.

On the outside the police maintained a professional appearance. Inside they were chuckling. At last the town ruffians had misstepped and had been caught. The heroes of the battle would receive commendations, and nights in Osbourne would be quiet again. With a touch of arrogance, the two policemen pushed Marsha into Fred’s office. “Here’s one of the ringleaders,” they boasted to Fred. “The other one is dead.”

Fred remained at his desk. He looked up at the policemen but did not speak. Meanwhile, Grant squeezed himself flat against the wall opposite from the store manager’s desk. Keeping a rifle in is hands steadily aimed at the doorway, he waited for the policemen to take one step into the room. His eyes watched Marsha with pity as she struggled to maintain her fierce dignity in the face of her tragedy. Like her captors, Marsha was unaware that Grant was in the room.

“Fred? Is everything OK?” one of the officers asked. He took the extra step for which Grant had been waiting.

“Hands in the air, gentlemen,” Grant said roughly. Turning, the police officers saw a double-barreled shotgun in Grant’s hands. Sheepishly, they obeyed his order. Grant stepped between them and removed their guns from their holsters. “Now, you two get behind the desk,” he ordered.

Marsha looked up at Grant, her eyes glowing. Her fire made Grant’s stomach boil, but outwardly he remained cool. He chose the officer who was about as tall as Grant. “Your jacket, please,” he demanded. The officer glared at Grant, glanced at the shotgun in Grant’s hands, and shrugged the jacket off. He tossed it to the floor at Grant’s feet.

“The hat too,” Grant directed, and the officer’s hat joined the coat on the floor. Both police officers stood behind Fred, watching to see what Grant and Marsha would do next.

“Very good,” Grant said, still using a rough voice. He handed one of the pistols to Marsha, set down the shotgun, and donned the jacket while she held the three men at bay. Grant put the hat on his head, pulling it down to hide his eyes. Tucking the second pistol into a picket, Grant seized three more rifles from Fred’s display case. He tucked them under his left arm, and then pulled the pistol back out of his pocket. “Now the three of you stay back here and keep quiet for at least ten minutes,” he demanded—“that is, if you want to live.” As the three men nodded obediently, Grant turned to Marsha. “Hide the pistol,” he told her. “For the next two minutes you are my prisoner. Do whatever I say, no matter how stupid it seems, OK?” She nodded. “OK,” he repeated. “Good day, gentlemen.” With a wave of the pistol, he directed Marsha out the door and followed her through the store. Like any captive, she walked slowly and cautiously.

As Grant and Marsha moved wordlessly through the ruins of the grocery store, police officers and ambulance attendants parted to let them through. Marsha and Grant proceeded outside. Grant chose a police car, of the five in the parking lot the one nearest the street, and pointed Marsha toward it. The car was unlocked, and the keys were in the ignition. Gawking onlookers cheered as Grant pushed Marsha into the back seat, climbed in front, dropped the rifles on the seat next to him, started the siren, and began driving in the direction of downtown.

Before they passed the police station, Grant shut off the siren, slowed to normal driving speed, and began cruising down side streets through residential neighborhoods. Once Marsha leaned forward and asked conversationally, “Where’re you going?”

“Sit back and shut up,” he grunted back. She did as he said.

After ten minutes of driving, Grant had worked his way to the bowling alley behind the apartment building where he lived. Seeing no one in the immediate area, he stopped the car, removed his disguise, and opened the car door. “Follow me,” he told Marsha, “and don’t ask questions.” He left the guns in the car; they had been needed to escape the store, but Grant had no intention of using them.

Racing across the field that separated the bowling alley parking lot from that of the apartment building, Grant was pleased to observe a large crowd still surrounded the grocery store. Their presence would diminish the visibility of his homecoming. With Marsha’s hand in his free hand, he slipped across the side of the building and opened the door to its one entrance. A quick run up the stairs followed, and a moment later the door to Grant’s apartment was closed and locked behind them. The crowd outside began to dissipate as Grant and Marsha gasped to regain their breath. Grant saw that already the steel of command was beginning to harden in Marsha’s eyes.

“Now can I ask a question?” she inquired after a minute or two of silence.

“Ask,” Grant invited.

Marsha crossed to the window. Hiding behind the curtain she gazed carefully outside. “How long do you expect to hide me up here?”

Grant shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“How soon do you expect the police to come over here, looking for witnesses about this morning’s drama?”

“Four, five minutes at least. We’ll think of something.”

“Think faster,” Marsha commanded, dropping the curtain. “They’re on their way now.”

Grant wondered why Marsha was asking him to do the thinking when she had been in charge of the local terrorist group. Then Grant recalled that she was used to having Tim Bernard as a partner. He also realized that she was used to striking and running, not to hiding. Even now she was approaching the clothes closet, surely one of the first places the police would check.

“Not there,” Grant commanded. “Get in the shower.”

Marsha balked. “Clothes and all?” she asked.

“Do you think your clothes would look better out here?” Grant asked, indicating the masculinely-furnished apartment. Marsha glared at him, but she then darted into the bathroom and started the shower, clothes and all. Grant slid the shower curtain shut, ordering, “Turn the water on and leave it on until I tell you to shut it off. Don’t say a word, no matter what I say or do.”

“I’ll get all wet,” Marsha hissed at him, but when someone knocked on the door of the apartment, she turned on the water.

Grant answered the door, welcoming two police officers into the apartment. He was relieved to see that they were not the officers he had encountered in the manager’s office.

“Excuse me, sir,” one of them said as they stepped into the apartment. “We’re here because of that business across the street.”

“Yes, the noise woke us up,” Grant lied. “There was such a crowd, though, we couldn’t see what happened.”

“Armed robbery and vandalism—turned into a shoot-out,” the second officer informed him. “A couple of them got away and a witness told us she saw them run into this building. Mind if we look around?”

Grant shrugged. “Don’t tear anything apart,” he said. He opened the bathroom door, which he had closed just seconds earlier. “Hey, Jim,” he called, “Some police are here because of the melee across the street. Mind if they look around the apartment?” As he expected, there was no answer. “He’s got to be at work by noon,” Grant told the policemen.

“That’s OK—we won’t bother him,” they promised. Casually they looked into the closets, behind and under furniture, and even behind the drapes. “Where does this door go to?” one of the officers asked, coming out of the bedroom.

“Storage,” Grant said. “I’ve got the key.”

When the officers had checked the storage room thoroughly, they met Grant again in the living room. “Don’t you or Jim go anywhere without checking with us,” they commanded. “We’ll need to ask you both some questions, but we need to search the rest of the building first.”

Grant shrugged. “Sure,” he said, and they left.

When they walked out of the door, Grant had the phone in his hand. This was not just a ruse. As they went down the steps, he dialed ten numbers and listened to the phone ring. On the third ring, Tony answered. “Hey…Tony,” Grant said.

“Hey, Grant,” Tony shouted back, “How’re you doing, old boy?”

“Not bad, not bad,” Grant said. “Listen, Tony, I need a favor.”

“Sure—what is it?”

“Can you put me and a friend up for a couple of weeks, starting tonight? We really need to get away.”

Tony chuckled. “What’s her name?”

“I’ll introduce you when we get there. Any problems?”

“No, none at all. See you tonight.”

Grant sighed with relief as he hung up the phone. Tony was always good for a favor. Going into the bathroom, he rattled the shower curtain. “C’mon out,” he called.

“They’ve gone?” Marsha’s voice queried as the water stopped.

“They’ve gone,” Grant said. When the shower curtain opened, Grant saw Marsha in dripping clothes, crossing her arms tight against her body and shivering. “You ran out of hot water,” she told him, her teeth chattering.

“Sorry,” he said, while his mind raced, planning their trip. “There’s towels on the rack there.”

“Just towels?” Marsha snorted.

“Oh, Yeah, Right.” Grant went to the closet, opened it, and pulled out a flannel shirt, a pair of jeans that were pretty tight on him, and a belt.  “Here,” he said, tossing them to Marsha. She grabbed them and closed the bathroom door.

While Marsha dried and changed clothes, Grant found a suitcase and tossed in the clothes he expected to need. “She can buy what she needs in Marshalltown,” he told himself. That thought reminded him to grab some extra cash and toss it into the suitcase. Then he took several post cards from Jim’s collection, some writing paper, envelopes, and stamps, and a couple of books to keep him busy.

As he zipped the suitcase closed, Marsha stepped out from the bathroom. Her long black hair had a tendency to curl when it was wet. Without makeup her face was freckled. The shirt was baggy, but it looked good on her. Grant’s jeans fit her waist but were double-cuffed to keep from dragging on the floor. Without her boots, Marsha was fully twelve inches shorter than Grant. Her curly hair, freckles, and outfit changed the sparks in her eyes into a twinkle.” Now what?” she asked him, mostly in a commanding tone, but with a hint of teasing in her voice.

“Now we leave town,” Grant said. He went into the bathroom and opened the window. First he tossed out the suitcase, then he looked at Marsha and pointed to the open window.

She winced. “Is it a long way down?” she asked him.

“Not far. You just slide down the drainpipe.” She put her hands on the windowsill and looked outside.

“It’s too far,” she told him.

Grant put his hands on her slender waist and boosted her through the window. “Fall or slide,” he told her. She took hold of the drainpipe, he released her, and she slid to the ground.

Grant had never liked heights. Even after forcing Marsha out the window and down, he had to take three deep breaths to steady his nerves. Then he put one foot out the window, then the other. Next he tried to convince himself to remove the rest of his body from the windowsill. Marsha beckoned urgently to him, but he didn’t dare look down. “Hurry,” she hissed. He dangled from his hands, took another deep breath, and let go. Landing on his feet was a jolt, but it was over and he wasn’t hurt.

“That’s my car,” he said, pointing. They rushed to it, he unlocked the door, and soon they were in the car and on the road. There was no pursuit.

“Hey, neat hat,” Marsha exclaimed. She was holding the formal hat that Grant’s grandfather had worn in the forties and fifties. Grant had forgotten that he had left it in his car.

“Wear it,” he said. “No one will recognize you.” The two chatted and got acquainted as they drove toward Iowa.

Grant Caldwell’s friend Tony welcomed Grant and Marsha when they arrived at his house. He offered them both the guest room, but Grant insisted on sleeping on the living room sofa, leaving Marsha the guest room. Intently he read the newspapers when they arrived and watched the news at six and ten on TV.

The day after they arrived, Grant set himself to work. Taking out the postcards he had packed, Grant wrote brief notes to his parents, to his roommate Jim, to his boss, and to his friend Wayne. “I am fine,” the notes said. “I have done nothing wrong, but to keep out of trouble I am hiding. Please do not look for me. I will see you soon.” He signed and stamped the post cards and set them aside.

Next, he took out his stationery and removed four sheets. On these he wrote four short letters, similar to the notes on the post cards. To each letter he added, “I need a favor from you. Please mail the enclosed post card, today if possible. And please destroy this envelope.” He addressed the envelopes to his cousin in Phoenix, Arizona, to another cousin in Washington, DC, to a friend in Memphis, Tennessee, and to another friend in Cincinnati, Ohio. When the letters and postcards were sealed in the envelopes, his work was done.

“Tomorrow,” he told Marsha, “I’ll drive to Cedar Rapids and mail these. Nobody will find us here in Marshalltown for quite some time.”

Marsha snuggled up next to him. “Can I go with you? I’d love to go shopping at the Terrydale mall.”

Grant shook his head. “Someone might recognize you. After I’ve gone through this trouble to get you out here and safe, I’d hate to blow it.”

“Thanks.” Marsha took hold of his arm. “Why did you do it?”

“Do what?” Grant asked, stalling for time as he thought of an answer she would accept.

“Why did you save me? You aren’t one of us. You could’ve hidden, said you were a shopper, and gotten away. Why did you stick with me?”

Grant leaned back and closed his eyes. “It’s hard to describe. Something in me hated to see you lose. I hated what you were doing, too, but striking out against rich people and those who make the rules—I understand that. If I let you lose, I guess I felt that I would’ve betrayed every kid in town.”

Marsha rested her head on his shoulder. “I don’t understand,” she told him.

“Neither do I. I just did what I felt I should do. That’s all.”

Marsha then did what she felt she should do. Tony saw them embrace on the couch and, quietly, he left them alone.

Later that night Grant sat in front of the TV, newspaper in his lap, news on the screen before him. Marsha came into the room and asked, “So, what’s the news? What are they saying about us?”

Grant chuckled. “They say you kidnapped me and forced me to take you to Chicago. They’re searching the city for us—mostly for you.”

Marsha sat down beside him. “They’ll find us sooner or later,” she said, stroking the back of his hand. “There is no point in hiding.”

“We have to hold out as long as we can,” Grant insisted. “We owe it to ourselves and to everyone who believes what we believe.”

“And what do we believe?” Marsha whispered.

The next afternoon, Grant Caldwell whistled as he drove back into Marshalltown. All seemed to be going well. He had mailed the letters in Cedar Rapids as planned. Then he stopped by the shopping mall to buy a couple surprises for Marsha. He enjoyed revisiting his hometown, even though he could not stop to visit his friends. The weather was beautiful, and all his plans were working as well as he could expect them to work.

He was surprised to see a great number of cars parked outside Tony’s house as he pulled into town. He was dismayed to see that most of them were police cars. His first thought was escape, but he knew that he had to find out what had happened to Marsha. He stopped his car and opened the door. Climbing out, he slammed the door shut, and began walking toward the house.

Police officers were leading Marsha out of the house as Grant approached. Her wrists were held by handcuffs. Grant rushed up to an officer and blurted out, “Please, sir, she is my sister. Can I talk to her alone for a minute or two?”

The Iowa state trooper was friendly, and he did not recognize Grant. “Sure, son,” he said, “but only for two minutes.”

“What happened?” Grant demanded when they were alone. “Did someone in town recognize you? Did Tony report you? Or did they track my phone call the other day?”

Marsha smiled sweetly. “No, dear,” she assured him. “I just turned myself in.”

Grant was speechless.

“Don’t ask me to explain, ‘cause I can’t. It just wasn’t working. Oh, you were great to help me, and I love you for it, I really do. But there’s no action in this town—nothing worth blowing up. I might as well suffer for my crimes if I can’t cause any more trouble.” She winked. “Who knows? I may learn a thing or two in jail.”

For this Grant had no answer.

“I’ve got a story all set. I kidnapped you, like they said on the news, and I made you do everything that you’ve done. None of it is your fault.”

Grant shook his head. “You can’t say that.”

“Isn’t it true? Tell me, did you hold Fred and the police at gunpoint and lie to the cops in your apartment and drive all the way out here for anyone besides me?” Grant denied it. “Then it’s true. I charmed you, or I forced you. In the end it’s just the same: it’s not your fault.”

“Marsha,” Grant said, “It didn’t work for Patty Hearst. It won’t work now.” A tear slid from his eye. “I had hoped we’d be together for a while—maybe share some adventures. I was getting to like your company.”

She smiled. “There’s plenty of time ahead of us. Our paths may cross again.” She winked once more. ”Meanwhile what’re you going to do?”

Grant thought for a second. “I’ve got friends in Nebraska I could visit,” he declared. “Of course I didn’t tell you that.”

“You’re going to Minneapolis,” she told him. “That’s what I heard.”

Grant kissed her, one quick kiss, then pulled himself away. “I’ll miss you,” he confessed.

“Don’t look back,” she replied. “We’ll meet again… unless we don’t.” With that, she returned to the custody of the Iowa State Police.

Grant climbed into his car and headed west.

 

Dream a little dream…

I

Tom’s arm stretched across Jessica’s back, her shoulder cradled in his right hand. Her head nestled into his chest. They had been watching a movie together, but now that the movie was over, neither of them wanted to move. It was late, and the two of them should have been heading toward their respective beds, but inertia, stronger than their will-power, had claimed them both.

“I thought about you last weekend,” Tom murmured into her ear, “though that’s not at all unusual.” Tom had been visiting his hometown, Victoria, over the weekend. “I went for a walk, and I remembered a dream that I had years ago—long before, well, you know, before we were together like this. In the dream, you and I and some other people from the office were taking that same walk. Guy was out in front, as usual, and you and I were behind him, and then some others followed us. We were walking past the school….”

“Wait,” Jessica interrupted. “This is a dream you had?”

“A dream, yes, a long time ago,” Tom said.

“I had the same dream. It’s been three or four years, I think. But I was walking with you in a town I didn’t know, and Guy was in front of us. This school—is it a one-story brick building, with several wings in different directions?”

“Yes, and there’s a playground between the school and the street.”

“I remember this dream. We were talking to each other—I’m not sure what we were talking about—and then we went around the corner.”

“To the right or to the left?”

“To the left, and we went up a little hill.”

“”That’s my dream exactly! And that’s Victoria. What was at the top of the hill?”

“There was a train going past—I think it was a circus train.”

“Exactly! We had the same dream, but it was my hometown. I wonder what that means, that we dreamed the same dream.”

She cuddled closer to him. “It means that we were always meant to be together,” she told him.

Tom smiled in his sleep and rolled onto his right side. Jessica was not with him, and they were not “together” yet. He had dreamed, years ago, of walking with her in Victoria, but she had never dreamed the same dream. In the morning, Tom would have a vague recollection of dreaming about Jessica, but the conversation about dreams would be forgotten with the chiming of his alarm.

II

Before he fell asleep, Kirby told himself about twenty times, “I’m going to dream about Michelle tonight. I’m going to dream about Michelle tonight.” He had read that a person could control one’s dreams, and he wanted to make it happen. He had not seen Michelle for weeks, not since she went off to college. From time to time he dreamed about her, but it had not happened recently. He missed her, and if she would not answer his emails, the best he could do was visit her in his dreams.

The dream began with a tiger that had escaped from the zoo. Someone had left a door open, and the tiger had gotten loose. The tiger was still in the building, but if it got past Kirby, it would get outside, and many people would be in danger. Kirby saw the tiger walking toward him, and he shouted at it, telling it to go back. Snarling, the tiger turned away; but then it changed its mind and began stalking toward him again. Looking over his shoulder, Kirby saw that two other people had joined him to block the hallway. The three of them shouted at the tiger, and this time it stopped, turned around, and headed in the other direction.

Then Kirby was standing with a group of people at the entry gate to a pavilion. A live program was going to be performed, and the entry fee was only thirty-five cents, but they demanded that they be paid in exact change. Kirby had a quarter and some one-dollar bills. As other people were paying and entering the pavilion, Kirby searched the ground, hoping that someone had dropped a dime. Luck was not with him, though. Looking into the pavilion, Kirby saw that Michelle was in the audience. She was taking care of a little girl, a blonde-haired girl, who appeared to be two or three years old. Kirby desperately wanted to enter the pavilion, but he didn’t have what was required.

When the others had paid and entered, the young woman selling tickets took pity on Kirby. She accepted a dollar bill from him, handing him his ticket and his change—a fifty-cent piece, a nickel, and some pennies. Kirby held the change in his hand, not stopping to count the pennies, as he walked to the pavilion. Michelle was not seated where he had seen her a moment earlier. Scanning the audience, he saw her walking to the other side of the group. She did not appear to have seen him yet. Kirby walked up to her and said her name. She glanced his direction, frowned, and began walking away. “No. Wait. Stop. Please,” Kirby blurted. Then, as she hesitated, he stammered, “I just want to tell you something.” What he was going to say was unclear in his mind. Still grasping his change, he tried to form an interesting anecdote about his struggle to enter the pavilion. Michelle turned and looked at him. A smile appeared on her face, an ambiguous smile that reminded Kirby of da Vinci’s painting of the Mona Lisa.

At that instant, Kirby awoke. He lay in bed for a few minutes, wondering what he would say to Michelle if he had the chance. Even in his dream, she didn’t seem to be interested in being his friend. Yet she had been willing to give him a chance, if only he knew what to say to her. Kirby had no illusions that, in real life, he would be able to capture Michelle’s interest. He wished that he had stayed asleep just a little longer. He was curious what he would have said to Michelle, and whether her smile meant that she was willing to listen to him. Kirby figured that, since it was just a dream, he would never know the answer to his question.