October 12th
The Town of Dreams
by rekha shankar

I’m an old man on a hill, and you’re a bunch of rotten kids!

Firstly, you trampled me hill. This isn’t just any grass! This is watching-the-sun-set-over-the-horizon, hill-grass! And I don’t need the likes of your feets bendings it every which-ways. Secondly, you came askin’ for a scary story. Pssh. Like yeh could handle a scary story. Oh, you can, can you? You wanna hear about something scary? You wanna hear about the scariest thing in the world? Well kids, come closer – but CRAWL! The grass! – and I’ll tell you a story about the scariest thing in the world: your dreams.

No, not your dreams like when you eat too much pasta and take a nap. I’m talking about your goals. Your ambitions. Oof! Dreams are the stuff o’ nightmares!

Don’t believe me? Try this on for size.

Remember Jerome Nunnery from Oak Ridge Drive? Yes, we all remember Jerome. Top of his class, but wanted to be – believe me – a painter. Chills! Now Jerome wasn’t like every other boy – Jerome had discipline. He would scrimp and save ever since he was a boy, all so he could support his dear mama. Even got himself a clerk job at the local law firm: David, Goliath, & Bibleton. But one day, he got a promotion. You hear me? Full health benefits, 401k, pension plan – a feast for the bank account! And he took it – smart man that he was – made lots of money, squirreled it away, and still had enough to eat the fanciest dinners. But then, something strange happened: you see, Jerome was working damn near 70 hours a week. Never saw nobody. And one pitch black night – not a star or cloud in the sky – he was arse-deep in paperwork for a local murder trial. Beads of sweat dripped down his face. His heart started to race. And that’s when he heard something. A hard knocking. A tense shudder all around him. Was it a serial killer? The ghost of his dearly departed mama? No! It was his inner psyche telling him to quit his job!

Oh saddle up because that’s not the end of it. This damned internal compass coaxed Jerome into quitting his job with full benefits in order to pursue his dream of painting! Can you believe it? That poor boy sacrificed a job with full benefits, again, I can’t stress that enough to pursue a career in the arts! And now? He had to move to a cheaper apartment in Astoria. And as for those fancy dinners? Well, last I heard, the boy hasn’t eaten Thai food in a month.

Lightning! Scared yet? Because that’s not the only person in this here town to meet the beast of ambition. Hoo boy! I’m sure you’ve all heard about Maritza Baez. You haven’t? Boys, where you been, in an earwax factory, where they plugged your ears with earwax?

Maritza, oh Maritza. She was a possum of a woman – always fighting her way to the top. Received admission to the Wharton M.B.A. program at just twenty-three years old! She always wanted to start her own business – to help other people. She even got a scholarship, which is nearly unheard of at that ol’ business farm! So she attended, passed her classes with flying colors … even landed herself a job at Deloitte in New York City! Vacation days, sick days – you couldn’t even think of what to do with all the paid time off. Let’s just say you could count every grain of sand. It’s probably true!

Well poor Maritza here worked herself to the bone, to the point where she up and had a heart attack. Had to rush her to the emergency room at the old hospital near the bog. The one where the lights green! The one where little Sally-Anne was murdered by ghosts! The one where a surgeon stuck needles in man’s toenails and made him kick a door! And the one where a successful businesswoman decided to become a freelance consultant!

Flash o’ thunder! Like a money ghost possessed by pro-bono Satan, Maritza thought she couldn’t do good for anyone working herself to death, and should instead consult for non-profits! Can you believe your ears? All for a “dream"! Aye! Blimey! Needles in his toenails!

What, you want a third example? What are you, a writer? Get out of here, writer! If this town sees one more poem, one more “three-act” story, and if they are to see another instance of “parallel sentence structure,” it’ll be the end of us. We need good, hard, full-time industry! Steel. Wood. Saws. Zoos. Outer space. None of these lilly-livered contractors or “artists!” No! Not on my hill grass!

So you see, kids, the world is a scarier place than yeh all think. Why just on me own damn hill I saw a couple starin’ at the clouds, wanting teh start a modern proto-punk band. Now what’s their marketing strategy? Where are they gonna find a tour bus? And how can yeh have modern proto-punk? It just doesn’t make any sense! There’s no money in it! I mean, if yeh had the chance to choose between bathing in crushed up pearl water or bathing in tap water, why would yeh even let me finish this sentence before jumpin’ in that pearl water? Come on!

But yeh see, kids, there ain’t no comin’ back once the dreams get ya. They’ll come and they’ll kill yeh in your sleep, or while you’re acting on Broadway, or while you’re playin’ piano at Carnegie Hall, or while you’re givin’ people affordable legal advice … yikes! Even thinkin’ about it gives me shivers. That’s the kind of stuff that keeps yeh awake for days, which become weeks, nowadays!

Now, you’ve got yer story, so get off meh hill! And for Chrissake, open a Roth IRA!

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