Monday, March 24, 2014

Dream: BIG Bathroom


Note: As clearly as I could recall this is exactly what I dreamt. And no, I wasn't watching "Back to the Future 2" or reading Gibbons' "Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire" or anything the night before.
Dusty desert bar standing by itself, next to a lonely two-lane blacktop that runs arrow straight, disappearing over both horizons. Early afternoon. Slight breeze blows some tumbleweeds around. The bar is almost empty – the only patron is a hippie dude with a beard and long hair sitting at a table with a glass of water before him.
Two teenagers enter the bar. Tall, skinny Chuck and short, fat Rob. College kids. Arguing about habits of the Roman Legions. One says they were loyal to Rome only, and the other says that they were often not Italian at all – in the later centuries – and were based hundreds of miles away from Italy, and sometimes never even saw the Capitol.

Their conversation perks up the bartender, a big, strapping, Turkish-looking fellow, with a half-sleeve t-shirt on and excellent posture. They ask to use the bathroom. He says, “Its just a one-holer”, with an odd accent. “No problem” they say together, and go through a door towards the rear, glad to be out of the curious gaze of the strange bartender.
Rob takes the stall. While Chuck waits he looks into the cracked mirror, which is a bit below his long frame. Beneath the mirror is a small cabinet with two slidey panels in the front. The left side can be accessed by sliding the left panel to the right, and visa versa. However, the right panel is fused shut by grime and age.

Chuck leans over and glances inside the left shelf of the cabinet. Scratched on the back wall of the little shelf are the words ‘time machine’ and next to that is a arrow pointing to the right. Next to the small cabinet is a set of tongs on a small rope, and on top of the cabinet is an antique wind-up alarm clock.
Curious, Chuck opens the left panel completely. Empty. He tries the right – stuck. He peers through the opening from the left. Empty, but kinda blurry too. Almost a shimmer. He stands back, straightens up and looks at it, then glances at the stall where his friend is.
Chuck reaches for the clock (which is displaying the wrong time by several hours), places it in the left part of the shelf and slides it over with the tips of his fingers. He waits a second and then reaches in to retrieve it. Stops. Hesitates. He looks over at the set of tongs on the rope. He gets those and reaches in to the shelf and latches on to the clock. Retrieves. 

Clock is now a modern, battery powered digital display, showing ’23:15′ military time, which is still the wrong time by several hours. Shock. Blink. He puts the tongs back. And absentmidedly he puts the new clock back where the old one was, on top of the cabinet.
Screwing up his courage Chuck reaches his left arm into the gap. Look of wonder. Pulls it out and its cold, almost iced over. He flexes it. Stares at it. Puts it back in. Look of wonder. Pulls it out dripping wet and smelling of the sea. He dries it on some paper towels as Rob flushes and makes finishing sounds.
Chuck sticks his hand in once more, gasps, and pulls it out. This time it is smoking, and some of the hairs are singed. He washes it off in the sink and dries it, as Rob finally emerges. “Your turn”, he says. Chuck, standing a few feet away, doesn’t answer. He just silently directs Rob’s attention to the clock on the shelf.
Rob, standing in front of the mirror/cabinet says “That’s strange, you think someone would have stolen this by now.”

Chuck says evenly, “Maybe we should hide the clock in the cabinet.”

Rob shrugs, reaches up to get the clock and places it in the left part of the cabinet.
Chuck hands Rob the tongs and makes a sliding gesture. Rob shrugs again and slides the clock over to the right. He turns to look at Chuck, who approaches Rob (though still staring at the cabinet). Chuck says “Maybe we should just give it to the bartender, lest he think that we stole it.”

Rob spins and reaches into the cabinet again with his bare hand. Chuck yells “No!”, and claps Rob on the shoulder as Rob grasps the clock with his bare hand.
Flash of light. They zap out of the bar restroom. They appear squashed together in an outhouse. There is a similar cabinet here, built out of wood. Rob’s hand is inside it. He pulls out the same digital clock. Shock. Whispered conversations. They open the door a crack and peer out. Woman with a bonnet and a gingham skirt approaches, head down, lost in thought. 
They quickly, quietly, close the outhouse door and stare at each other. What to do? As the woman knocks on the outhouse door, Rob puts the clock back into the time warp and they zap back.
Back in the bar bathroom. They stare at each other, at the digital clock, and at the dust that has accumulated on them. Rob, dazed, looks up at Chuck and says, “I need a drink.” 
They exit to the almost empty bar. The hippie in the robes is still there, staring at a glass of red wine.
The guys take barstools, still shaken. Bartender looks them over carefully, draws up two beers, sets them before the guys. Rob reaches for the glass and only then notices that he still has the clock in his hand. 

He gapes at it and then looks guiltily at the bartender. Bartender nods and gently takes the clock from Rob, and places it below the bar, where it clanks against several other objects made of various materials.
“Been traveling, eh?” He says in his strange accent.

“Yes.” Rob says, still dazed. 

Chuck is more awake. “How often does this happen?” He asks.

Bartender shrugs. “Every so often.”

“Do people sometimes…not come back?”

“Sometimes.”

“Isn’t that horrible?”

Bartender smiles a strange smile. “Horrible? Maybe. Or maybe an improvement. Life is always a gamble, and travel is always an adventure. Some folks are having some pretty awful lives when they go back there to use the bathroom. Some strangers come back to live out nice lives here.”
Guys think about that. Drink beers for a few minutes. 
Chuck: “Doesn’t that change History?”

Bartender: “Or the future. Or some other present. There are many Times out there. Linear time is what we live in, but there are many threads that make the tapestry, and they run in all directions.” He shrugs again, slightly embarrassed by his flowery speech. “It all seems to work out….” He mutters.
More silent drinking.
 Then Rob perks up. “What about their cars?”

Bartender laughs. “It’s a desert out here. Everybody needs a car, and some don’t care where the previous owner wound up. And there are some (he nods at the guy in the corner) who arrive on foot, need some wheels and are good with tools.”
Guys finish their beers. Rob reaches for his wallet but the bartender waves it away. “You’ve paid enough for one day.” Bartender shakes hands with Rob, then with Chuck, who holds the contact and slowly uses his left hand to raise the half-sleeve of the bartenders t-shirt. 
On his considerable bicep is a crude tattoo of a roman sword and shield and above it some words in Latin inside of a pennant.
Their eyes meet and they break the handshake. Long moment. Bartender says evenly: “In answer to your first question. Some Legions never did see Italy, and we spent as much time fighting other Legions as we did Celts or Persians. You swore allegiance to Rome, but your Emperor was really the prefect of your Legion.” He pauses. 

“Then I had to go reach into a hole in a tree next to our latrine.” He shrugs and smiles a strange smile. “Its all relative – but it all works out.”

The guys smile back but waste no time in leaving the place.
Bartender watches them go and then draws a beer for himself. He smiles at the hippie in the corner and then points to his glass. The hippie shakes his head in a gentle no, his hands cupped over his glass.
“A hole in a tree”, the hippie says wonderingly.

“Or, a hole in a cave”, the bartender answers.
They both laugh. The bartender raises a bottle of wine questioningly and the Hippie laughs again and raises both hands in a ‘no’ gesture, revealing for a moment the ugly stake scars on both of his hands.
Angus McMahan

angusmcmahan@gmail.com 
@AngusMcMahan

Photos from medicinehorse.org and remodelista.com

2 comments:

  1. What a terrific story! Like the twist at the end

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    1. Thank you! It came out in the dream just like that. Weeiiirrrddd..... :-)

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