BACK to the Main Index
BACK to Miscellaneous Universes
BACK to the Previous Chapter
I'm dreamin' this night, an' goin' t' see Bill, an' I 'spect 'e won't be there, since this is a dream, an' 'e's never in my dreams, but sometimes 'is cart is.
I don' 'spect that old Greyflank, either, but there 'e is, standin' lookin' rough an' hollow, like a 'sumptive person, by th' edge of th' beach, an' 'is legs ain't showin' 'cause it's dark, makin' water an' the old man's feet look th' same dark black as night.
"G'd mornin', Mr. Greyflank," I say p'litely, wavin' in th' early dawn dark. Usually I'd be sleepin' now, an' Greyflank an' Bill'd be wherever they bed down at night, 'though it's not odd atall in th' dream.
Greyflank won't wave back t'me though, an' I come all th' way up t' the cart, feelin' creaky chilled in my knees, an' head an' chest.
"I didn't do this, you realize," th' old man says, right when I get up to 'im, puffin' on 'is smokes. I look down, an' at 'is feet, where th' light's dim, is my dead, soggy from th' sea own Bill pony. 'E's killed 'im, shot dead, with red blood on the sand, an' a smokin' gun, i'the water.
'Is body's warm, an' blood's all 'roun' 'is neck, an' there's only a tiny hole. I cain't talk at all. I cain't breathe, an' th' wind blows me, I reach down fer th' gun, t' shoot at Greyflank. "I'll shoot you in the head!" I'm feelin' it in my head, an' I cain't say it, an' I cain't stand up straight. "I'll get even with you for this, I'll get 'im for yew Bill!"
Greyflank's gone, an' I'm chilled t' my bones in cold ocean waves. I cain't find th' gun either, an' my hands are red, an' dry, wrinkled. I cain't find Bill, an' then I see, th' whole pony's body's sinkin' inta th' sand. An' so am I.
I've been dead a long time before I wake up. I feel water inbetween stones tiny like sand, only I feel 'em all, in my gums, an' all 'roun'.
I've been shot i' the head, an' feel blood runnin' down inta my mouth, like when I was th' big strong man an' had all night's worth a' cryin', only instead of cryin' it's blood.
I'm kickin' i'th' sand, an' cain't make myself move.
"Bill?" Bill's somewhere nearby me, an' I think 'e's alive, an' then I'm rememberin' that if I'm dead 'e might seem alive, same as me, feelin' it all. An' I'm angrier'n I've ever been, at anyone, ever, ever.
"It sounds stupid, but I'm not gonna let this go, Bill, I know, no movie stuff, an' I'm not gonna do any movie stuff, I'm just gonna shoot 'im. Yew won't miss me, ye're already dead."
Then I come ta see I'm confused, an' wake up, an' hafta take a lotta deep breaths, and my heart's poundin' too hard fer my body.
It's later, late mornin', an' Bill'll be...
I'm wobbly on my feet, an' things're rockin' an' turnin' around in my head. Where is he? Down the beach, down beyond th' ridge, where is 'e now? Not dead, not like i' the dream, right? Only, I've never ever seen anyone like th' ac't'l pony an' that old Greyflank-- Greyflank, in a dream! I bet I knew 'e c'd use them dreams. I'm stridin' out fast, without runnin' 'cause my body hurts but goin' as fast as I c'n go, down between th' dunes.
He's killed my pony, I know 'e's killed 'im. 'E's killed ladies an' donkeys an' children. I've seen it happen, an' so 'as my little Bill. Bill's not there at th' usual spot, an' neither is Greyflank. Screamin' would be good right now, but I cain't get it outta my body, an' I just fall t' the sand.
Bill's body shows up over th' sand, an' 'e's walkin' an' pullin' 'is cart full of children. Greyflank's walkin' slowly 'longside.
"Oh Bill. Yew went out," I run across th' sand, gettin' warmed up i' the sun.
Th' pony's breath comes out in a little "Piff" noise. "I shouldn't, or something?" His eyes look out in front toward me, past 'is blinker edges, lookin' surprised. "I'm not sure you oughta," I say, looking at Greyflank, who's settin' down children onta th' dry sand.
"I'll give you your turn in a second, Dick," Greyflank says, an' I feel wobbly, an' strange, an' I hate him.
Burnin' comes up inside me, healthy burnin'. I don't feel any much better'n before, but I'm gettin' heated, an' instead a' gettin' confusion an' cold, I'm changin' somethin'. Just a dream, my hind end.
The second Greyflank gets my quarter outta my sweaty little hand, I take that pony an' start 'im t' runnin', only we don't run on th' flat, an' we don't turn any circles.
At night, when we've got where there's too many grasses t' pull me through i' th' cart, I've got out an' am pullin' th' bits, t' help Bill get 'is footin' over th' green dunes.
"It couldn't've been 'just a dream', an' if it was, I don't care," I try to say, an' it comes out rattly.
"Dick, I'm with you, but how could he have killed me? I'm still--"
We've gotta climb up over a slippery clump a' sand. I don't wanta stop an' see if I can remove all 'is strappings. There's no time, since Greyflank'll be 'specting 'im back, an' who knows how soon... 'E'll come... An' I don't have a gun, an' don't know... I c'd get one, but where t' put Bill while I do it, what if Greyflank finds him? "What if it's a _dream_ dream, like th' day before somethin' happens i' real daily life?"
"I don't know what you're talking about." Bill's takin' hot breaths through 'is nose, in an' out, fast breathing. It's coolin' down an' th' wind is light, which 's good fer my lung.
I gotta cough, an' I stop an' hold onta the lines. "I'd put you in the cart," 'e says, lookin' at the dark green, an' yellow an' blue, all down th' shore, an' out over th' wild areas past th' planking. "But it's so rough, you'd be tumbled about. And, I'm not used to..."
"Look, just move. Sorry... if my coughing gets you killed, I'll die. I'll just die. Don't think about me again. Move, down this way, here." I pull at 'is straps.
"How could you see me dead, if I'm not dead, and it's not just a dream, Dick? I don't know how you mean."
"Look, 's in all th' magazines that old fat gal lady with th' nettin' on 'er head reads out loud at them tables, indoors," I try t' 'splain.
"Look, okay, fine. You don't understand it either."
"But I do. Ye're not gonna get killed. I've seen what you've seen. Ye're not gonna go that way. I've gotta get yew away from 'im whether 'm smart an' unnerstand it or not. I'm cryin' now _an'_ runnin' so let's just move."
By th' time we stop, 's dawn.
I look up, an' behind th' cart, there's Greyflank, just standin' there, an' reachin' out. Bill's breathin' an' lowerin' 'is head, an' I'm tryin' ta pull in breaths a' cold wind.
Bill turns an ear back toward his master quickly, an' doesn't say anything. But I get enough breath t' say, "Ye're damned. I know yew are. Ye're killin' him, an' I won't let yew. If I-- c'd-- get somethin'-- t' kill yew with--"
Greyflank looks grey an' sad, an' holds out 'is long bony hand t' me. I'v'nt got enough left t' back off, an' Bill's between me an' th' old man.
"Young person, I'd never do anything to hurt this pony."
I scoff, an' make my angriest look I've got in me at 'im. But 'e's talkin', shakin' 'is 'ead sadly an' slowly at me.
"I can't. You've already killed him. You sent him to the knackers, boy."
Bill lets out a little squeal.
I did not. I did not do any such thing, I couldn't've. "I just met him, after I was free to go. I couldn't've, an' ye're a damned old man. Damned, I know it an' ye're not gonna send my pony t' any Paradise."
"They shot him in the head, there, boy."
Bill collapses on the dune, an' 'e's kina bent over a dune, an' 'is harness's strung down to 'im.
Somethin' hot comes over me, an' somethin' awful an' terrible, at th' one same time, an' everythin' fires up inside me.
"Hello, Dick," says a voice, an' I look up, since it's comin' from right in front an' above of me.
"Do you believe him?" Mr. Dick Powell asks me, an' I figure 'e's not really there, an' I turn t' rip Greyflank's guts out, an' Greyflank's gone. An' Bill's grey an' black strapped body is out on th' dune, an' I'm hopin' 'e's asleep... My foot goes out t' touch 'im, an' I get my hand reachin' out, an' Dick Powell's still there, in smart clothin' an' a tie, an' white shoes' covers, an' 'e's holdin' a pipe, an' rocked back on 'is heels an' lookin' at me.
"Go away! I know you're not real, an' this is my pony."
"Dick Dick Dick." My usually a'most favorite movie star clicks 'is tongue, an' looks like 'e's goin' t' take a breath off 'is pipe but doesn't.
"Bill, wake up, come on, friend," I ask my pony. "I can't get 'im up. If ye're real, er if ye're not, please, either help er leave us alone, Mr. Powell."
"I'll help. You've startled him, that's all, son."
"I didn't _do_ anything!"
"Well, that old man, then. Somebody startled him, likely about something he's not willing to remember, at the present time. However--" an' 'e points 'is finger down th' side of 'is pipe a' me-- "I'd really like to get all of you, and all of Bill, in one place at one time, and sometimes that takes... well, not exactly this--" he looks down at my pony, as dawn's gettin' yellower.
"but something like this, if it's the only way to get your presence where you'd probably benefit from it being."
"I don't have any idea what ye're talkin' about. None atall. Now." I frown. "Go home. Or away. Or wherever, an' let Bill be, an' me too. An' what if he dies? Ye're not helpin' at all."
"Oh, but I am." Dick Powell leans down by the collapsed pony, an' reaches toward 'im but doesn't touch 'im, an' says, somethin' inta 'is ear. I cain't hear it. It reminds me a' Greyflank an' I'm shiverin' scared, but I cain't do anything, I don't know how to help.
"Now." Mr. Powell stands up an' wipes th' sand off 'is one knee where 'e set 'is trouser i' the sand.
"What did you do to my pony?" I see a gold raincloud, right i' front a' me, an' Bill's gone. I think I'm seein' 'is cart, only it's spinning. I'm hearin' hums an' buzzes.
"Just reminded him, Margaret."
Everythin's backwards an' inside-out. For a second I feel thrown backwards, an' off my feet, an' I'm pulled inta a center somewhere, an' left in it. An' I'm planted in th' sand again, an' lookin' at Dick Powell, who's hard ta see, I'm feelin' sick.
"Now listen." Mr. Powell turns, an' looks a'most gently at me. "You're dead."
I can't say anything.
"Many, many times, dead. So am I, before you ask. No, it's not when you think it is, and if you think back just a little bit, just like your little pet pony Bill did, here, you'll recall that you--" an' 'e puts 'is non-pipe hand on my shoulder-- "passed quite painfully in that sanatorium."
"It did hurt, sure. It did. An' I got... better... didn't I." I look around, feelin' my hair long on my shoulders like i' my dream. "Was that a dream?"
Dick Powell smiles, an' pulls his hand back. "No, Margaret, not what you think of as some kind of dream. I told you I'd come back for you, because I'd offered to do you a favor, and get you more easily where you're going to be anyway, if I might."
I'm supposin' this is a dream, an' I'm waitin' t' see what Margaret thinks of all this, so I c'n get on with the dream, an' wake up. An' Margaret just stands, an' is me, an' holds 'er hand purse an' waits, an' looks up at Mr. Powell, all confused. I try sayin' somethin', then, t' get the dream 'long. "I got better, didn't I. Mr. Powell."
"Well. You died. Certainly, metaphorically, you did get better. Certainly."
I'm lookin' about, an' I know, he doesn't hafta tell me anythin', because I'm seein' it all.
"Why did Bill, an' me, have to be in one spot at one time? Will we never see... will I never see Bill again? What happened to my pony?"
Mr. Powell smiles, like he thinks something's funny, an' turns an' puts 'is hand on a smooth, odd-looking automobile. It's th' oddest thing I've ever seen, an' it's balanced with its front tires up on a dune, an' shinin' an' sort of white-gritty, an' brown an' gold, like wet sand in real bright sun.
There's a wheel an' a wing, painted on th' side, in thin black lines. An' it's got strange smooth tops an' sides, like a car, only not like any car in any movies or even close t' th' ones aroun' th' beaches.
"This doesn't mean anything to you?"
"It's a PT Cruiser," I say, wonderin' where I got that from, an' soundin' like a lady in th' movies.
"Here, get in. This is your Bill. You've grown very fond of this car." Dick Powell holds open a rear door, an' waves me in. But I stop, an' set a pointed 'igh-heeled shoe on th' edge. An' it does feel like Bill. But I'm thinkin' it's tricky, an' I look at this movie favorite, an' think hard, an' ask 'im, "How could Bill have remembered... What happened? Did... He was never shot, not really. It was... It wasn't all a dream... I don't know what it was."
"Yes, in some way, you do." Mr. Powell presses one finger right inta th' middle of my forehead, an' says, "Right in the head, after you took him to be put down. It was a mercy killing, really. Just like Charger, and many others."
Mr. Powell looks away, an' smirks that funny smile. "You never know what might be a mercy killing," he shrugs. An' 'e smiles again, a real smile, an' opens th' front openin' to the strange new Bill, t' get inside, an' watches an' helps me with a hand.
I've got inta the seat an' 'spect t' feel all upset now, an' get t' cry, an' now, nothin' feels wrong atall.
"Now, Margaret, let's give Bill a little spin and get you two joined up with yourselves, if that's alright." He looks up at a mirror an' looks back a' me. "You know, you can come back here. Just because people haven't, doesn't always mean they won't."
"Mm." I feel tired, an' warm, an' rub th' seat with my palms. "Mr. Powell, why'd yew want us all in one spot, a' one same time, for some important thing?"
"You're both about to get yourselves into a head-on collision, and you wouldn't want to pass up the chance to be all there, all your selves so to speak." Mr. Powell starts up the engine, an' it's runnin' through me, turnin' me heated an' comf't'ble. "Don't worry, you'll be alright. You'll be a little wobbly, but you'll be walking away from it, yourself."
"I will? I am?" I sit up, an' look out th' cloudy glass windows. There's nothin' outside but some kina streaming water, an' it's dark. "Will... will Bill, will my car be alright?"
Dick Powell doesn't look like he knows the answer to that one. After awhile 'e says, "Well, he seems to like, or enjoy, taking a beating, in some way, friend. I wouldn't worry about it. Or, if you do worry, get back where you want to be. I just wanted to volunteer to get you to the point where you'd want to be."
"You mean Greyflank couldn't kill people?"
"No. Well, no one can, if you look at it that way, I suppose."
"Yes?" He looks up at that mirror 'gain, and I think about driving an' pushin' Bill in dif'rent directions like 'e said from 'is dream. An' I like those thoughts.
"What are you then, some kina angel, or devil or something?"
He laughs, a soft laugh. "Not by a long shot. It happened that I passed before PT Cruisers, and I always wanted to drive one."
"But it's my car!"
"Yes, yes, it's your car."
"If I go to sleep, back in this seat, while you're driving, will I get lost an' confused again? Die of anythin' again?"
Dick Powell shakes his head, an' Bill runs on smoothly.
I lay down, breathing easy. My lungs aren't so tired anymore, an' I feel close t' the seat, all along my side, an' my feet are on a carpet, an' my feet feel smooth.
I feel Bill warming me up with all the little pieces of the motor, running all together and making warm sun and sand feelings come up through my thin fingers, and my chest, which isn't bad anymore.
I'm half-asleep an' I hear myself saying, to a man in a cap an' dirty blue trousers, wavin' my hands around so he'll know I mean business, "I love this car."