In the dream, I was eating a white bread sandwich with my mama. She made one for both of us, and we had some bean soup, and we were both sitting at that little red and black and chrome table with those back breaking uncomfortable chairs in the tiny kitchen. It was cold in the house, even in by the stove. Looking out the small windows over near the refrigerator, I saw it was snowing hard, and the sky was gray, and the trees were gray, and the ground and the air was filled with white, almost like being in a cloud.
Even asleep, I swear I could taste that sandwich she made and smell the soup and I could see mama in her pretty dress. She was wrapped up in an old brown wool sweater with the holes in the elbows.
That white bread always takes me back to her and that cold old house, that bread with all the pretty colored balloons on the bag. Breakfast, lunch or suppertime it was always something with that bread. Sometimes for dinner, mama would take some leftover meat and gravy and make a hot open sandwich. Some times when we had potatoes we’d eat them with the gravy too. It wasn’t nothing fancy, but it was always good. Her best recipes came from the Betty Crocker cookbook she got from her own mama. If Betty didn’t cook it, mama didn’t cook it and we didn’t eat it.
Awake now and realizing it was just a dream, I’m laying here sweating and stuck to the sheets. As much as I hate the cold, I hate this heat worse. What would I give to be shivering in that kitchen from so long ago.
The power is off again and it must be ninety-five here in my bedroom. I hear others in this big old Victorian apartment house rustling around. I hear a baby screaming and somebody yelling at someone about the baby’s screaming and I think that makes the baby scream louder. Then I hear another gunshot and it sounds like it was from outside. I hope it was from outside. Now everything is quiet.
It’s about three hours before sunrise and I’m soaked in this dread that the world we have to come to know and expect as spoiled and entitled Americans is about to be no more.
I was in the army nearly twenty years ago; I wasn’t worth a pinch of shit as a soldier. After four years and got out and found a job as a long-haul trucker. I was worth shit as a trucker, either. I was going to go to college on the army’s dime too, but again, it required more effort than I was willing to invest.
One night over little Rhinegold beer nips and shots this bartender gig materialized and here I am, mid-forties, not quite the roaring success I’d envisioned, on the very edge of a mid-life crisis, feeling like I never really got started. It’s been a life spent lighting smokes, and baby-sitting drunks, pouring drinks. While I was busy with all that, the world seems to have frayed around the edges and at the seams and is coming apart.
I have a couple of kids. A boy and girl. The girl lived back east with her mom, somewhere in Connecticut. I got a Christmas card about fifteen years ago. She drew something in crayon. A Christmas tree and a mommy and daddy and a child holding hands. It was never like that for her, her mom or me, but I kept the card. That’s about all I’ve got of her. Not even any real memories. I was told she was wasted to the heroin or fentanyl, not sure what drug makes any difference, anyway.
I’ve got a boy too, from another girl I knew. He was in Florida. I’d hear from him from time to time. I ain’t heard a fucking thing since that hurricane tore up the gulf coast two years ago. They say that gulf water was damn near one-hundred degrees; it was the biggest goddamn storm anyone had ever seen. Nearly two thousand people died. I’ve been afraid since one of them was my boy.
It hit one-hundred-fifteen-degrees in Eureka, California on New Year’s Day. We’ve not had any significant rain since last July, and that was just a one-day torrent that dumped twelve inches way too fast. It ran right off the concrete hard dirt and back to the sewers, then onto the ocean, I imagine. A farmer friend texted me a photo the next day, his only comment, ‘The ground isn’t even damp.’
Most days for the past six months, at least the high temperature during the day has been topping out well over one-hundred-ten degrees. Over night lows are in the upper eighties to ninety.
It hasn’t snowed in the mountains to the north in two years.
That one night, the night it rained, I’d never seen anything like it. Solid sheets, more like a wall or rain, and the temperature dropped from ninety-five degrees to about thirty-five degrees in minutes. It finally ended in snow flurries. I went out to walk in it, like maybe I was thinking it was the last time I’d ever walk in rain or snow again. It felt that way.