Saturday, March 26, 2016

Burnt Offering

"History, which interprets the past to understand the present and confront the future, is the least rewarding discipline for a dying species"

The Children of Men by James, P.D.


My friends Maren and Jim are opening a restaurant. In a manner of natural progression they are giving up their duties as upper-level medical researchers in prestigious eastern environs in order to cook fish, draw draught, and greet ordinates. Bully for them.

I am bringing a gift as contribution to their new enterprise, a fireplace. It's a U-shaped brick construction like you see under terra cotta mantels in pretender housing developments. Just the thing.

I carry it up the open lane, each arm grasping a wing which fits along my either hip. I am not aware of the weight, which is just as well, as dreams would not be possible were physics in charge.

When I arrive at the site, Jim walks out into the porch. He is lost in thought, but aware I am there. He says, "They were supposed to call. They haven't."

I understand this to mean the relatives, who have offered to contribute the storefront for the establishment, have not yet given final permission. Jim returns inside.

I stand in front of the place, holding the fireplace. Apparently Jim did not notice it. Maybe lots of friends have donated fireplaces, so another does not merit remark, no more than another lily at a funeral.

I stand there.

Finally, I set down the fireplace in the yard. They are much too busy for this particular item. Plenty of time to set it up for them later, among all the others, after the relatives have called.

I start on down the lane towards home. Hear crackling. Smell woodsmoke. Turn.

Flames shoot from the fireplace out in the yard of the proto-restaurant. No one notices, because there is no one around, and, besides, what's to wonder about a fire in a fireplace?

The yard is mostly dirt and, for fifty feet or more in any direction around the fireplace, mine are the only footprints, leading right up to my boots.

Human nature has evolved the defense against utter confusion of regarding any lack of an answer a nullification of the question. Hope the relatives call, is my last thought on the business of the restaurant.


Hello, friends. We're I to interpret this dream, I would fail, but I was interested that you both entered by name, and the odd gift might be entry into grief from outside. Maybe it relates not to Bucky, but to the old Bob Newhart bit about Madison Avenue creating an Abe Lincoln where none existed. Agent on the phone: "No, Abe, you were a rail splitter THEN a lawyer. It doesn't make any sense the other way. You wouldn't give up your jaw practice to split rails, now, would you?"

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