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The Skeptic

Michael, a burly bearded biochemist, and Daphne, a lithe longhaired librarian, have been mostly happily married for twenty years despite a great divide in their views of reality.

Daphne believes wholeheartedly in astrology, the I Ching, and that animals, birds, reptiles, and insects are messengers from the spirit realm. She also believes the soul lives on after death and that many of her dreams take place on the astral plane.

Michael thinks the I Ching, astrology, the spirit realm, life after death, and the astral plane are what he calls hackneyed spiritual crap.

*

On July seventeenth, a dozen people gather for a barbecue in Michael and Daphne’s backyard to celebrate Michael’s sixtieth birthday. Two of the guests are Daphne’s best friend Cecilia and Cecilia’s new partner.

“Michael, this is Sunrise,” says Cecilia, introducing her beau, a handsome man with a French accent.

Michael grimaces, for there is nothing he hates more than what he calls phony hippy names.

“My given name is Anatole,” says Sunrise, smiling at Michael. “From the Greek Anatolius, which means sunrise. Most of my friends call me Sunny, but please call me Anatole if it is more to your liking.”

“Whatever,” says Michael, shrugging dismissively.

“May you have a marvelous birthday dream,” says Sunny, undaunted by Michael’s hostility. “And now I must try the hors d’oeuvres. They look fantastic.”

*

When the last guest has gone home, Daphne asks Michael what he thought of Sunny.

“Not much,” says Michael, annoyed by her mention of him. “What does he do? Don’t tell me. He’s an astrologer.”

“Close,” says Daphne, laughing at her husband’s relentless cynicism. “He writes books about neuroscience and epigenetics.”

“Yeah right,” says Michael, refusing to believe her. “And I’m the Pope.”

*

Early the next morning, Michael wakes from a dream so real he is startled to find he was dreaming.

He slips out of bed, dresses quickly, and leaves a note on the kitchen counter for Daphne.

Going to Green River Beach. Be back soon.

*

A few minutes later, Michael is driving south on the coast highway, his truck headlights barely penetrating the dense fog.

“What am I doing?” he asks, knowing very well what he’s doing.

He is enacting his dream, and doing so with urgency he hasn’t felt since he was a teenager and wild about surfing and girls until his parents sent him away to a boarding school far from any ocean.

*

Arriving at the Green River Beach parking lot, Michael climbs out of his truck, hurries across the wide beach to where the waves have hardened the sand, and heads south as he did in his dream.

*

A half-mile along, the sand meets a large patch of granite boulders. In his dream, Michael traversed the boulders to reach a huge conical stone; and at the base of this stone he found a fabulous crystal.

As the sun gains supremacy over the fog, Michael surveys the daunting mass of boulders and mutters, “This is stupid. Who am I kidding?”

Yet rather than return to his truck and drive home, he sits down on a flat-topped boulder and feels a huge knot of regret and disappointment choking him so ferociously he feels he might die at any moment.

Compelled by this feeling of imminent death, he gets up and makes his way across the field of boulders to a huge conical stone standing above the others; and he circumnavigates this mighty stone in search of the crystal, but finds only sand.

Grief-stricken and exhausted, he is about to give up his quest, when rising out of the sea just beyond the breakers is an enormous whale who takes a long look at Michael before vanishing beneath the waves.

“Oh my God!” Michael cries, his grief obliterated by the astonishing visitation; and he remembers that in his dream he found the crystal by digging in the sand at the base of the stone.

So he drops to his knees and digs down until his fingers touch something hard and smooth.

Fearing he’ll find a piece of man-made junk, he sits back on his haunches and slows his breath to calm himself until his curiosity gets the better of him and he resumes his digging.

 *

On August eleventh, eighty people gather for a barbecue in Daphne and Michael’s backyard to celebrate Daphne’s sixtieth birthday; and it is soon apparent to everyone that Michael is not his usual self.

Gone is his bushy beard that heretofore obscured his boyish good looks, and his usual drab attire has given way to a beautiful turquoise shirt and burgundy trousers.

And when Margaret Chenowith regales him at length about seeing a mountain lion pursuing a stag through her apple orchard, Michael exclaims, “Gad zooks, Maggie! What do you think it could mean?”

*

When all the guests have gone home save for Sunny and Cecilia, Sunny says, “I would give anything to know what happened to you, Michael. You’ve become a whole other person since I met you a month ago. And I know you’re not pretending. You really have changed.”

“As you wished for me,” says Michael, his eyes sparkling, “I had a marvelous birthday dream.”

“Tell them,” says Daphne, her eyes sparkling, too.

So Michael tells Cecilia and Sunny how he was compelled by a mysterious force to enact his dream, and how he was about to give up his search for the crystal when the colossus rose from the sea and obliterated his grievous despair.

fin

Impulsos Olvidados a piano solo from Todd and Marcia’s CD Ahora Entras Tu.

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