Chapter Twenty-six

   Maureen, talk to me. What do you think?
   "Well, it's interesting, but -- what are you trying to accomplish?"
   I don't know. Get to the end.
   "That's it? Just -- get to the end? That's not enough. There has to be a greater purpose. Otherwise, they'll lock you up and throw away the key."
   A corny expression, but you're right. However, there is something, and it has to do with writing, and the creative process, and how random it all is, and --
   Sure. It was pure chance that I chose the elements of this book. There was no planning, or grand design, as far as I can remember. Why Navy frogmen? Why Aloysius Q. Butler? Or Maureen? Or James M. Reynolds? Everything's random, including what I just said.
   "So what? Isn't most art a kind of primal expression, unrestrained, free to explode gloriously on the page, or the canvas?"
   Hey -- have you been going to one of those creative writing workshops? Because, if you have, I'll, I'll...
   "Seriously Jim, why are you so afraid to just write? Why are you repeatedly getting bogged down in digressions and distractions? They just keep you from reaching your goal, whatever it is."
   Not at all. The digressions are the whole point! Don't you see, Maureen, this isn't writing!
   "It isn't?"
   No. But this is. See the difference?
   "Oh, you're impossible -- I can't talk to you anymore. You know what? -- to change the subject -- tomorrow's your first day back at work. Are you ready?"
   You bet I am! I've got my shoes out, my shirt's been laundered, and the alarm clock is set for four-thirty.
   "Four-thirty? Why so early?"
   Well, it takes me a long time to get going in the morning.
   "But, four-thirty? You don't have to be there until eight-thirty, and it's only a fifteen minute bus ride."
   Well, there is another reason. Most of my bad dreams occur in the wee hours, just before I wake up. This way I wake up before I have them.
   "I see, I see." She was skeptical, and who can blame her, but, to return to the narrative form for a moment, I soon fell asleep, and I began to dream. My dreams, in the order in which they appeared:
   1.) The leggy secretary I lost in the desert returns, and she's now an Amway salesperson, and she's about fifty, and she has an annoying speech impediment that causes her to make a sibilant, whistling sound when she speaks.
   2.) I'm at the final game of the 1998 World Series. The Milwaukee Brewers are playing the New York Mets and it's tied 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning, and I'm in the stands, in the mezzanine level, about forty rows back, behind a column which obstructs my view of the field completely, and I'm sitting in front of a loud, obnoxious, drunken lout who keeps throwing up on me. A foul ball comes back toward us and magically hits him on the head and knocks him out. I laugh, but I'm instantly transported to...
   3.) Kopy Katz, where it's my first day back. I enter at precisely eight-thirty. "Hiya, Mr. Katz!" I shout to the venerable old man, whom I've yet to describe. "How are you, Mr. Reynolds?" inquires the nondescript old codger. "Just great," I answer cheerily, "I must be dreaming." "It's only a lousy job," the old man grunts, going about his business. Maureen is next, and I have a big surprise for her. I step over by the Xerox machine and, once I have her attention, lift the cover and lower my head on to the glass and -- "Just kidding!" I laugh, and then, suddenly, the machine turns on, I don't know why, and the gears start grinding and the large platen or whatever you call that thing (Platen is correct -- Ed.) starts to move and there's this bright flash and the next thing I know I'm transported back to...
   4.) The ball game. They're in the twelfth inning and it's still tied, 4-4. The Mets are down to their last relief pitcher. "What a game," I think to myself, and then the drunken lout comes to -- and starts puking on me again. I get up, exit the ball park, and hail a... bus. Since I'm dreaming, a large city bus swerves out of its lane and makes an illegal U-turn just to pick me up. I'm not sure if I'm in New York, or Milwaukee, although I've never been to Milwaukee so it must be New York. The bus ride is a weird one. All the other passengers are playing the bagpipes.
   5.) In this, the last dream, I'm home, finally, working on this novel, and I've just begun, just started writing, barely a paragraph into it, just started sipping a cold Dr. Pepper, when I hear someone knocking on the door. I wonder what time it is, but you can never see a clock in your dreams -- did you know that? -- and so I had no idea if it was ten, or two, or four, or what? I yell out "Who is it?" and someone yells back, sheepishly, "Sorry, wrong door." So I shut off the computer and go back to bed. I fall asleep, and start to dream. I dream that I'm writing, but this time I'm much farther along, this time I'm all the way up to this point in the book, right about here, right now, what I'm writing now. I'm dreaming that I'm dreaming that I'm writing this at this very moment, like running alongside myself -- hey, I'm beside myself! -- and I'm having trouble keeping up with myself, and I'm going faster, and faster, and it's getting out of control, it's spinning out of control, we're going to crash! We're going to crash! We're going to crash! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

(This ends Chapter Twenty-six, with a bang.)

Chapter Twenty-seven