Writing Rule #52: Never Write About a Dream Unless It Communicates That Which Couldn’t Better Be Communicated

My brother and I were at a family graveyard in Kentucky (we don’t have one, and we’re from California). For some reason, he decided to exhume our mother’s body, although I wanted none of it. I helped him anyway.

This would be easy to interpret if he were the one writing the memoir and not I. As it is, I prod him for memories and input all the time, which must be like having someone periodically ask you if they can just “jam this paperclip into your fingernail for a sec.”

So he gets her out (a very shallow grave – another Jungian goldmine for you) and somehow, she’s now sitting at a dinner table with our grandmother.  I’m watching her – staring at her; this is Deborah Williams McReynolds around age 39 or 40 – short light brown hair, round face, big brown eyes, all smiles. And I know that what I see is wrong – that any second, she’s going to suddenly change back into a decomposing corpse, like in a zombie movie. I keep expecting to see hunks of graying flesh hanging off of her jaw, and receded eye sockets. It’s horrifying, what I think is about to happen, but I can’t look away. Instead, I watch my grandmother and her lean in together for a good laugh, holding glasses of wine, and I say “You’re so beautiful!” No one responds to me – it’s as if I’m not there. I just keep saying it, over and over.

You’re so beautiful.

You’re so beautiful.

Bad Dream

I dreamed I was the reason that my mom died. And Chloe. For the uninitiated, Chloe’s the dog I gave my mom for Christmas when I was 19. She now lives with me because my mom was murdered 5-1/2 years ago, and she is my heart and skin and bones. I spoil her rotten and she’s wonderful and can never die.

I don’t recall how I killed my mother, but I’d killed Chloe with neglect—I’d left her outside with no water. (I killed a guinea pig this way when I was 12.) Now my mother and Chloe were angry zombies, à la Stephen King’s Pet Semetary. My brother, my husband, and I were living in my grandmother’s house, and outside, the Mom and Chloe zombies threatened us. I somehow locked my mother in a shed across the street, and I knew she would have to be destroyed, and that I would have to do it.

I confessed to my little brother that her death was my fault, and then I told him that she was locked up and needed to be blown up with some C-4.

I don’t remember any other details of the dream, but this is what matters: the feeling of saying to my brother, “I have to tell you something…”
And then the feeling, when the shed exploded, that I had lost her all over again.

: Your dream’s drivel and no one wants to read it!

Me: Shut up bad-child-actor critic in my head!

: Also, someone’s just published a memoir about their mother’s death, and the market’s flooded. You’re wasting your time. Get a real job. That’s what this dream was about.

Me: Her mother died of cancer, and mine was murdered. Also, I found her body. A lot of other stuff happened that I need to tell people about – and in my voice, too. There won’t be anything else like it.

: People don’t want to read something tragic and uncomfortable in this day and age. Write that book you’ve been thinking about instead – the one about the pony running for mayor.

Me: Et tu, Undead Cat? Et tu?

: Besides, you don’t even know how much of the book is finished and what order it’s all going in.

Me: I was hoping the right editor would help me. You know, like Maxwell Perkins. Someone who believes in what I’m trying to do and helps me assemble it.

: Those don’t exist anymore! Editors don’t want to see it until it’s already totally marketable and ready to hand directly to Oprah.

Me: Oprah would love my book, Pennywise! She’s exactly the person who would love it.

: No she won’t! It’s too esoteric and arty. You try to seduce your mother’s mortician. It’s gonna be dead in the water! Hahahahahahahaaaa!

Me: Stupid clown. You’ll see. I’ll finish it. And I will find peace. And I will write that novel about the pony running for mayor. (Spoiler alert: he trends high in the Gallop Polls. Ba dump bump.)