MIKE LEE: All we did was stay the night

Flash fiction by Mike Lee

See You in the Dreamlands

It was July 1980 again, and I turned my head to face the barrel of a shotgun. A Remington 20.20 over-under, death through the window screen, was inches from my face.

“What the fuck are you doing in my Mama’s house?” Considering the situation, he seemed wearily calm. I looked to my left: there was a woman, and two children—both girls.

“The door was unlocked,” Irene chimed in. She is not afraid of anyone but her father, and he wasn’t here.

She laid her arm over my back, pulling me closer to her. We’d slept on the pullout bed under the parlor window, since it was the coolest room in the house.

Shocked at my girlfriend’s audacity, the man responded by pulling the Remington up over his shoulder. He kept his eyes on us.

“You punk rockers better not have messed with this house.”

“No sir, we did not. We only slept in this couch bed,” I said.

“Don’t say that, we’re New Wave,” said Irene. Oh God, she’s not taking any shit today—that is a problem at this moment.

“Sir, all we did was stay the night.”

“We’ll make the bed,” Irene said. “If that’s what you want.”

“We intended to.”

“That’s all right,” the man said. “Just come out slowly.” He paused. “Hands where I can see them.”

“Yes, sir,” Irene said.

As we moved to the front door, she whispered, “He wasn’t going to shoot us in front of his kids.”

“Yeah, but he’s going to call the cops, and that’s going to be one interesting mess.”

“Uh-huh. Something messed with the timeline,” said Irene, as she slipped on her heels.

The wife opened the door for us, as we slowly stepped out on the front walk.

We stepped into the late morning sun. It was already hot. The two girls pushed tightly toward each other, leaning against the pick-up, staring at us.

“Just keep walking.”

“Sir,” I said.

His response was measured, betraying an undercurrent of tension. “Keep. Walking.”

“Yes, sir,” Irene said. She grasped my hand as we stared ahead as we passed them, sharply turned left and walked to the corner.

I whispered, “This didn’t happen in the dream.”

“Something messed with the timeline. That’s all I can think of,” said Irene.

“Okay. This means we have to go to a payphone to call a cab.”

“Or we take the bus.”

We crossed the boulevard. “No—damn, we can’t take the bus. It doesn’t go that far.”

“Then how are we going to get the money, and your drivers’ license?”

We arrived at a decision at the other side. Irene and I would take the bus to the Greyhound station downtown. The timeline was touched just enough to possibly make everything go awry.

They may be there when we arrive, or my mother would pull up in her orange Toyota Celica. Or we would run into someone else who knew us. We discussed all this, and continued walking until we found a bus stand, and waited.

                                                                        * * *

We stopped off at a second-hand shop to buy some clothes and a suitcase. At the newsstand we bought magazines to read a second time. There was enough between us, even without the tip money we intended to nab, stashed in the top dresser drawer, and the license left behind in a pants pocket amid clothes piled at the foot of the bed. Might have taken some books, too. Some other things of value.

But there was enough cash for our journey. On edge, we held hands in silence.

                                                                        * * *

Night fell in Arkansas as the express bus rolled toward Little Rock. A short stop to pick up passengers, and onwards to cross the Mississippi to Memphis. There, another hour layover. Time for a cheap dinner, before heading overnight. We arrive in Knoxville early in the morning.

“I think I messed us up when I talked back to the man,” Irene said.

“I don’t think so. I think it was when he swung the shotgun over his shoulder,” I said. “I don’t recall that in the dream.”

“Certainly, this is a wild change of plans. What do we do now?”

I shrugged. “New names, fresh identities.”

“We should think of names,” Irene said. “Stories to tell people. Make it up as we go along.”

I pecked her cheek. Irene smiled and turned to the window, watching the traffic speed by on Interstate 40. 

“Maybe we changed everything by accident.” 

“Perhaps so,” I said. “Hopefully we will know over time, but for now we have to get to New York and take it from there.”

                                                            * * *

After dinner in Memphis, we were sleepy. Switched seats so Irene could stretch out on my lap.

My hand brushed her hair as I recalled the dream. I’d told the man everything, and at the end he had said, “I sure hope I’m not alive to see it.” I looked at the blue sky and woke up.

Now, he doesn’t know. But we do. This is the burden that we bear, eighty bucks poorer than we intended and dissolved to non-identity. I didn’t need the ID but wanted a piece of myself.

The future—under new names and narratives—is ours to traverse. We know of many things, and that knowledge will help. Maybe change the world during this adventure, with different names riding on alternative histories. I think about something I read, that you could run into six people in this world who look just like you. In our case, we each have one.

The situation we are in is inexplicable. We will find out if this is true. Perhaps I am dreaming again, and I won’t awaken at 4 a.m. in Knoxville.

I look at Irene. She opens her eyes. “See you in the dreamlands, sweetheart,” she murmurs before resting against my arm. 

I often dream. But tonight, I pray that I am not.

We need to be in Knoxville.

Mike Lee is a writer and editor at a trade union in New York City and the chief blogger for Focus on the Story. His work appears in or is forthcoming in BULL, The Quarantine Review, Drunk Monkeys, and many others. His story collection, The Northern Line, is available on Amazon and other online bookselling outlets. He also was nominated for Best Microfiction by Ghost Parachute.

Flash fiction is edited by Francine Witte. Banner photograph Wes Candela

Published by poetrybay

WELCOME TO RADIO POETIQUE: A SPOKEN WORD RAD!O REVIEW Radio Poetique is an online clearinghouse for info, news and notes on top radio, blog and podcast sites streamed on the internet. We compile, monitor and profile the best in current online poetry broadcasts, providing weekly updates on the coolest, the chillest, the classiest and the most cutting-edge poetry sites out there on the internet today. Subscribe to our weekly blog to keep track of our latest news, info and notes. Listen in to the stations we profile! Got a favorite spoken word streamed radio program, podcast or blogging you'd like us to profile? Send your latest recommendations! We're always listening.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: