Last night I had a vivid dream which has stayed with me. These are the details:
I drive up to a barbecue joint off the side of the highway. The two-lane highway is little more than cracked asphalt that snakes through a redwood forest, and the barbecue joint is a white shack on an oval patch of dirt and weeds. Before the old shack is enough of a makeshift parking lot for about a dozen cars and pickup trucks. Behind the old shack is a river that snakes alongside the highway. Towering redwoods with very dark, low hanging, heavy branches form a natural canopy over the river and the backside of the old shack.
It is the late afternoon. The parking lot is full, and I am finding it difficult to squeeze my car anywhere. I keep pulling into spaces that turn out to be too small for me to park, and then pulling out to try to find some other space. The aggravation is compounded by the fact that I am late already. I work in the backroom of this barbecue joint – essentially, an administrative job – and the boss lady is probably badmouthing me already for not being at my small desk. A few of the hillbillies who dine at this place are loitering just outside of the shack. They are watching me with amusement while puffing on their cigarettes. I would like to ram them down with my car, but I do no such thing. Instead, I keep trying to find somewhere to park.
The boss lady walks out to the parking lot. She is a short, portly, elderly woman with the pointed nose and the piercing eyes of a witch. She is wearing the ruffled dress of an old fashioned whorehouse madam. She puffs on a cigarette through a cigarette holder, and she periodically removes the cigarette holder from her mouth to use it as a pointer. She is pointing me to where I can park. She is peeved that I am late, but she is also amused by my predicament. I see the rickety wood steps along the side of the shack that lead up to the second story backroom. My desk is up there, but until I manage to park I cannot get any closer to my work than I am now.
Frustrated beyond hope, I pull back out of the parking lot, and I screech down the two-lane highway. I swerve like a madman around steep curves, almost smashing into trees several times along the way, before I find myself on a long stretch of road way out in the middle of a flat desert. The sun is blistering hot ahead. Dust and sand beat up against my windshield like enraged locusts. I turn on my wiper now and then just to shove away the sand that has accumulated on my windshield. I can taste the sweat slithering down my face and raining as droplets onto my lap. I keep looking into my rearview mirror. Is the boss lady close behind me? Did I do something else back there that may catch up with me? I am not sure, and not knowing is actually worse. I would rather know that I am a fugitive from the law than not.
I see an old pickup truck parked along the right side of the desert highway up ahead. It must have been abandoned there just recently, for there is still a cloud of dust and sand from when the brakes were applied along the shoulder of the road. Ahead of the truck is a sheriff’s vehicle. It is parked across the desert road. Its front passenger door is open. I can see even from a distance that the shotgun nestled beside the driver’s seat has been removed. The tactical lights on top of the roof are flashing with the startling intensity of a law enforcement vehicle still in hot pursuit. Clearly, whatever went down just went down a moment ago. I start to slow down, and as I do so I see another sheriff’s vehicle coming up fast from behind me. There is nowhere for me to pull over without sliding my tires on the sand, so my intention is just to come to a stop on this highway.
I have slowed down to a crawl, when I see up ahead the Sheriff step away from the hood of the abandoned pickup truck. As anticipated, he is clutching his shotgun. He is wearing the light brown uniform of a rural Sheriff. His Smokey Bear hat is gone. Perhaps it flew off of his head when he hurriedly exited his patrol car. Since his face is not obscured by that hat, I can see that he is a middle aged, white, mustached man with dirty, brown hair. His eyes are vacant, almost inhumanly devoid of color, like prolonged stress has swept away any last trace of personality from them. His jaw is clenched so hard I almost expect it to shatter like glass under pressure and to fall in shreds to the ground. While clutching the shotgun before his chest, the Sheriff is walking backward towards his patrol car. He kicks up dust with his boot heels while staring directly into my windshield. Why is he staring at me? What have I done? Should he not be focusing on whoever had abandoned the truck just a moment ago? I can hear my heart beating in my chest, as I continue to slow down.
The patrol car that has been coming up fast from behind me screeches to a stop. I look into my rearview mirror and see the deputy step out from his car with his shotgun. He is a big man with an oafish, Germanic face and deadly blue eyes. In a previous generation he would have been a Nazi death camp guard; his face dumb not so much from a lack of intelligence as from a lack of intellectual curiosity or moral questioning. He is resolute in whatever he is doing at the moment, and he perceives in his resoluteness a similitude to virtue that allows him to commit any atrocity without a tinge of regret. His Smokey Bear hat sits low over his forehead like he never takes it off. I watch this Nazi very closely in my rearview mirror, as I am applying just enough pressure on my brake finally to come to a complete stop. I sense that I should have stopped seconds earlier, for now I am close enough to the Sheriff that this Deputy now thinks he needs to protect his boss from me. I see the Deputy in my rearview mirror hold up his shotgun and aim it towards the back of my head. I do not even have enough time to hold up my hands, before he grins and pulls back on the trigger.