The only thing Chadd VanZanten loves more than writing is fishing, and the only thing he loves more than fishing is living in Cache Valley with his wife and family. A long time ago he studied journalism and political science at Utah State University; he now works for an environmental consulting firm. Chadd often writes about characters who are in the process of missing the point life is trying to make, hoping this might help him avoid doing so. His work most recently appeared in The Provo Orem Word. He wishes he had more time for things like comic books and Scrabble. Click on Chadd’s picture to hear him give a reading of ”Decidedly So.”
Dave Borba is a self-educated artist whose work can be found in collections across the United States and abroad. Early in life, Dave noticed a strong creative streak within himself. Since that time, Dave has found a variety of ways to nurture and express this creativity. Dave has made a living through industrial design, commercial and freelance photography, graphic design, and illustration and fine art. Locally, his work has been shown in the Faces of Utah Sculpture and the Utah Arts Festival. Dave lists his son and his dogs as his greatest loves. To quote Dave, “Live and love while you can folks, there’s no promise of tomorrow.” To see more of, or purchase, Dave’s work go to his website at www.daveborba.com.
I had a dream early this morning, but not a normal dream. It was one of those dreams where you hear something, but you’re asleep, so your brain makes up a dream to explain the sound. Almost like a defense mechanism of some kind—your brain doesn’t want you to wake up, so it tricks you into thinking you’re already awake.
Like when the phone rings and you’re asleep, so instead of the phone, you hear a fire alarm. You leap out of bed, slide down a firepole, and get in a firetruck. You race to the fire and there are people dying, screaming. Burning people everywhere, smoke. A mother drops her flaming infant from a two-story window and then jumps out herself, also on fire.
You pick up a firehose. Another fireman hooks up the other end to a hydrant, but he accidentally sets it to “cake frosting.” See, all fire hydrants have three settings: water, cake frosting, and Dr. Pepper. Gallons of cake frosting spatter out of the nozzle, but it only shoots about eight feet.
The people are still dying, burning. Hair: burned off. Clothes: burned off. Skin falling from bones like charred hot dog meat. This is your fault—you’re captain of this hose. When the inquest begins, they’ll come to you for answers: “Why couldn’t you put out the fire? Don’t you know the cake frosting setting is only for birthdays and weddings?”
You scream, “Water! Set it to water! Turn it to the left! To the left!” The guy tries to change the setting, but it’s a clumsy process. He has to use a wrench about three feet long.
Then you think, wait. Back up. Fire hydrants do not dispense cake frosting, nor Dr. Pepper. Therefore, this is a dream.
And it’s gone. The fire alarm is now the phone on your nightstand. You fumble for it, knock everything on the floor, somehow come up with the receiver, but some part of you is still in the dream, so instead of, “Hello?” you mutter, “No not frosting I need water cake frosting can’t put out a fire.”
It’s your boss from work.
He says, “What? Are you in bed? Where are you? It’s a quarter to ten.”
You hurry and get dressed, but you’ve got to think up a cover story in case your boss asks you about what you said on the phone—like you’re George Jetson, working some hilarious scam and you have to have an excuse in case Mr. Spacely says, “Say, Jetson, what was that you said this morning about cake frosting and fire?”
“Oh, that? I can explain that. See, I was fixing some bacon this morning and, well, there was a grease fire, so I told my wife to quick and hand me something to put it out. There was some cake frosting there in the kitchen, and I guess she handed me that instead of a bucket of water. So.”
“Water? Jetson, you don’t put water on a grease fire, you dumb bastard. That just makes it worse. And why were you answering the phone in the middle of a grease fire, anyway?”
That’s the kind of dream I had—the “cover-up-the-noise” dream—but in this case the noise was my own exhausted snoring, which my brain turned into the sound of a robot having sex with a dog I owned when I was eleven years old. Her name was Brandy. The rhythmic rasp of the snoring became the mechanical whine of the robot’s organ pumping slowly in and out of the dog.
In case you’re wondering, the dog apparently didn’t mind at all.
So, I’m in the yard of my childhood home with a robot that’s having sex with my childhood pet, but what I found odd was not the robot, and not the dog calmly allowing a machine to violate her. What tipped me off is that it was the wrong yard—it was at our house in Phoenix. We didn’t get Brandy until we moved to Scottsdale five years later, so how could Brandy be there?
This is the human brain, the apparatus that makes sense of the world for us. My brain hears snoring and it says, “Oh, that? I can explain that. See, there’s this robot—”
If that’s what happens when my brain doesn’t understand what it’s hearing while I’m asleep, how can I trust it when it doesn’t understand what’s happening when I’m awake? Like yesterday, when my stupid boss gave me three days to finish a week’s worth of work. Of course, he said I’ll have five days if I work Saturday and Sunday, so, technically, that is a full week, but why is shit like that always happening to me?
I’ll tell you what I think. Alternate realities. We all have alternate realities inside us, and when we dream we see into them. Some are similar to our own reality, like when I dream about sitting on the couch eating Doritos. Other times it’s a robot screwing a dog—in some other reality, that’s normal.
Right now, there’s an alternate me saying, “I had the weirdest dream. I went to this big building and sat in a chair, staring at this little screen, and there was this thing with a button for each letter of the alphabet, so I sat there for hours pressing the buttons to make words. It was so freaky. I tried to leave, but they wouldn’t let me. I had to stay until it was all dark outside, and then they let me go. Is that weird or what?”
In my office I have a Magic 8-Ball, a little toy pool ball with a window in the bottom and you ask it yes-or-no questions. I keep it on my desk. When people come in when I’m getting ready to leave for the day and ask me, “Can you help me?” I just point to the 8-Ball.
Whenever my boss comes in, sometimes the only thing keeping me from smashing the 8-Ball on his head is that I already did it in another reality. He waddled in with a big pile of work. He really is just like Mr. Spacely—a little mustache, always upset. In the dream he’s actually three feet tall, too, and wears a little jumpsuit. I take the 8-Ball in both hands and bring it down on his skull as hard as I can. It’s only plastic, but it’s pretty solid and it’s spherical, which is the best shape for a blunt-force weapon.
It shatters, of course, comes completely apart. You might be surprised to know that the Magic 8-Ball is not completely full of liquid. There’s just a small cylinder of liquid in there, the same diameter as the viewing window. This makes perfect sense—no need to fill up the whole ball. Somewhere inside the headquarters of the Magic 8-Ball Corporation there’s an equation that shows how much liquid they didn’t need when they decided to not fill the whole sphere. It’s probably the secret to the Magic 8-Ball’s success. If they had tried to make it completely full, it wouldn’t have been a cost effective toy. The company saved millions on manufacturing. Not to mention shipping costs.
But in my dream the ball is full of liquid, so Mr. Spacely is soaked with indigo Magic 8-Ball fluid. He staggers to the wall and leans there, checking his head with his fingertips. There’s almost as much blood as 8-Ball juice.
I turn my attention to the little polyhedron with the prophecies on it. I’ve never seen one outside a working Magic 8-Ball, so I want to find it. It’s over by the bookshelf. When it was in the fluid, floating in the ball, it was a ghostly purple color, but now that it’s liberated it’s pure white. Looks like a twenty-sided sugar cube.
It has landed on the answer, IT IS DECIDEDLY SO, and that’s the only answer it’s ever got right.