What We All Know at Night

There are many things I wish I would have known before the mass dreams began. That my neighbor Mrs. Tipp wore a negligee to bed, a violet one that made her look like a grape, and that Mr. Foster across the street put his Dachshund around his neck and it curled like a scarf. It turns out he’s a good calligrapher because that’s what we were doing in that first mass dream, lettering banners for the Memorial Day parade to honor veterans, one hundred forty-three World War One veterans our town had sprouted. I hate lettering, wanted to go inside and make lime Jell-O because it would be refreshing and everyone likes lime Jell-O, but Mrs. Tipp made me draw anyway, three big cannons, and Mr. Foster clapped me on the back.

All of the veterans were over one hundred years old and in wheelchairs, creaked en masse down Main Street as Mrs. Tipp and Mr. Foster and I held our signs with the red, white, and blue words that read “We Love You, Veterans” and one old man whispered to the other, “I thought we were dead” and afterwards we ate the lime Jell-O that I couldn’t remember making.

I saw Mrs. Tipp and Mr. Foster in his yard across the street the next morning. They were talking and I could hear them almost. In unison they saw me, waved, and on the news when I went inside to eat my toast there were words crawling at the bottom of the screen, bombing bombing bombing like tiny white snakes inching across the desert.

The second night, half of the neighborhood congregated in my backyard to witness the carving of my prize 500-pound pumpkin though I’ve never had a garden. Mr. Foster was wearing his Air Force uniform because he had been drafted to fight again even though he is fifty-three and a dentist. The plane was parked behind his garage, we could see it across the street, and he was going to take off after the pumpkin carving. I stood beside the pumpkin with a butcher knife and worried it would bleed red all over the newspaper that covered my lawn, but Mr. Foster nudged me forward and said he had to get going. Mrs. Tipp said not to worry, everything would be okay, so I stuck my knife deep in the pumpkin and carved out a circle and the smell of squash was almost enough to make everyone faint, but the seeds were the size of my fist so I started gooping out the pumpkin innards, plopping them on the ground, and soon someone started a pumpkin pulp fight. It was all over my clothes, hair, arms, and I woke up before I could shower.

In her front yard Mrs. Tipp sat in a lawn chair, wore a blue housedress as she read the paper and ate pumpkin seeds. When I went outside to get the mail, she looked over to me and nodded. I could hear the seeds crunching like bone between her teeth.

The third night was the worst. Mr. Foster was still in his air force uniform, but he was near death from the tongue tumor that was big as a grenade. He was trying to eat cookies but couldn’t get them in his mouth, his tongue was too large. He took his dog off from around his neck, told me in wide incomprehensible words to take care of it, but the Dachshund went limp in my arms. Mrs. Tipp kissed Mr. Foster on the cheek, this time wearing a red negligee that made her look like a cherry.

Mr. Foster didn’t say much the next day when I saw him in his front yard, but he did have his Dachshund around his neck, scratched its head and nodded to me as if to say it was not a bad morning.

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