This month, Brad Leach brings us his musing via a story:
A Mugging on Market Street.
And yeah, I read it more than once. Wowzer.
Dreams. They get lost, get hurt. When they do, I step in. I’m a dream private-eye.
It was all clouds and snow when the old fellow slipped into my office and perched on the chair’s edge with all the confidence of a Swiss candlemaker at Edison’s lightbulb convention. He dripped. Claimed he was a writer. Looked more like a ‘wanna be’, but his money’s green so I listened.
Fresh from Nine-to-fiveville, he was eager to settle in Write-now City. He dreamed of being the next Tolkien or Lewis, yada, yada, yada. I’ve heard the story.
He said things started out well. Found a girl called Musie, a slot in a brownstone, a keyboard. Claimed six months in, his dream got mugged. I pressed for details.
He didn’t know much. Musie said some agent dragged his dream to a platform and caught a blog-train. Said all dreams have to go down to Market and Madison Avenue. It never came back. He eventually found it registered in the intensive care ward, down at General. Wanted me to find out what happened. I already had a pretty good idea.
I caught a cab down to Madison. Big lights, big boards, big promises. Just the place to sap some wide-eyed dream, hoping to be discovered, blinded by the neon covers and movie deals.
I walked the couple of blocks up to Market. Rough crowd here. These were hard men chasing harder dollars. Even as I watched, a couple of naive dreams floated in. Hungry eyes labeled them as marks. I entered a sunken parlor called Write-a-Blockbuster. I figured it was the sort of place a writing dream would haunt.
It was crowded. Every seat and stool taken, with plenty standing around, hoping. All of them clutched papers. A few harried agents moved drinks around, tossing a few elbows when the unwary didn’t make an aisle. I muscled over to the bar and asked the big fellow behind it if he’d seen the old guy’s dream.
He nodded. “I see ‘em all, pal. They’re all precious, all special.” He chuckled. “’Round here, special means standard.” He waved me over to a booth where my first suspects sat.
I sat down across from Mr. Book, next to Joe Conference. Book sported the literary look; open collar, the cardigan, a pipe. Conference had the shark-skin suit. Book grinned, admitting they’d met Dream.
“Yeah, I took him, so what? He needed books, I sold him books. Software, subscriptions, contests.” I glared at him. “Hey, the writer’s golden age is over. So is the silver for that matter.” He fidgeted. “I gotta live, too.”
Then Joe Conference nudged me. “He was good fer a few conferences. Dose types always are. Dey come in flush with cash, figurin’ ta buy a introduction into publishin’ whit a review and a conference ors two.”
Sliding out from the booth, I next caught a fellow named Mr. Traditional, finishing pork rinds and a beer. He’d promised Dream he’d get the book published. All Dream had to do was research it, write it, change it, edit it, proof it, market it, video it, distribute it, and sell it. Traditional even offered Dream a whole dime out of every dollar made! I frowned.
“He don’t like it? Let him print it! I got mouths to feed and this place is shrinking. There’s hundreds beating on the door.” I flexed fingers and reminded this “gentleman” rinds weren’t his only meal option. He gulped, then pointed down a dim hall.
Dream had gone through the back door labeled E-PUB. I stepped up and a big gal dressed like an Amazon opened the door, and shoved me in.
Dreams were jammed in. Literally millions. No gravity, they looked like a fog of ghosts. They were tearing each other, mauling each other. Scratching towards a vanishing portal labeled “Success.” Young dreams, old dreams, dead dreams. Some had books. Some had none. I was buffeted, sapped, and shoved back out.
On my way back up town, I swung by General. I promised the nurse that if I could talk to Dream now, we’d do more than talk later. She smiled. I smiled.
I slipped into the room. He looked like a skinned, bruised potato, hooked to an IV.
“There were dreams in there,” he said. “Many dying. Many better than me. I couldn’t get across the room. Some were giving books away! No one was making it.” He rubbed his arm. “This race is hard when you’re late to the line. I couldn’t keep up.”
I nodded. “It’s tough out there, Dream. Especially when you’re older. Go home!”
“I can’t... tell him. His book is his lotto ticket. He’s hoping....”
“I’ll tell him.” I closed the door.
I gave the old fellow both barrels, straight. He took it, nodded, turned to go. As he made the door, he looked back. “I have to write you know. It’s the only thing I’m any good at.”
I nodded. You and two million other retirees, I was tempted to add. But I didn’t. He knew. But he has to try.