“The toaster (lacking real bread) would pretend to make two crispy slices of toast. Or, if the day seemed special in some way, it would toast an imaginary English muffin.”
― Thomas M. Disch, The Brave Little Toaster
From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Monday November 06, 2000
I woke up and lay there in bed, in the darkness. Thinking it was time to go to work I craned to look at the clock, but it was only three AM. While I restlessly padded around the dark and quiet house the dog looked at me through half-lidded eyes before he sighed and went back to sleep, convinced I wasn’t up to anything interesting. I tried the TV – they were selling kitchen appliances, loading whole chickens into rotisserie grills. The audience ooohed and aaahed. They couldn’t believe the price.
This wasn’t working so I gulped down a glass of milk and went back to bed. I curled up with stress, worrying about the upcoming workday – things I needed to do and don’t know how I’ll get done. My stomach churned, my palms burned, I tossed and turned.
One stress relieving technique is to have a place in your mind, a place to go, a safe harbor, an imaginary retreat. I have one, modeled on a real place from far away and now long gone.
It’s a simple boat dock, a swimming dock mostly, remembered from my youth on Lake Gatun, in Panama. In my mind I imagine the steep walk down the rough trail through the jungle to the lake. In real life it was rare to walk this without getting bit by a tropical ant or stung by some jungle bee – but in my mind they don’t attack.
The dock is crude, made of pallets and other thrown-away wood, attached to old metal drums. No boat is tied up today – a couple of handmade wooden canoes are upside down, pulled into some thick greenery at the water’s edge. Everything is green; the jungle is alive. There’s a big tree leaning way out with a rope swing. Giant lizards sit in the tree. I pull the rope back and climb with it a little way up the muddy slope – then swing out and drop into the lake.
The water is warm, tropical green, fragrant. I swim on my back out toward the center of the inlet then dive down, holding my breath frog-kicking down until my ears pop. Rising, breaking the surface, I turn and in a few strokes I’m back to the dock, climbing up, and stretching out, resting there for a few minutes.
Of course, this place didn’t really exist exactly like that – my memory has molded it. What did exist is long gone, even the base I lived on has disappeared along with the entire Canal Zone.
In my mind, though, I’m there for a few minutes at least. I smile a little smile.
The alarm clock went off.
And now, a piece of flash fiction for today: