Excerpt from "Sea of Dreams," unpublished novel by Marvin J. Wolf
I swim slowly through an endless bank of thick fog; my whole world is the sea below and a dense white shroud above. I pause to float atop the waves, carried through the thick mist by an invisible current. Hungry, I dive down to snag a passing cod, peel the skin back like a banana, wipe the mayonnaise off with a paper towel, and eat the breaded, perfectly-fried fillets. I drop the head and skeleton and watch it float away, knowing that I am littering my environment but not caring—let the scavengers take care of it. I notice that I can breathe underwater, that my limbs and chest are covered with scales. Suddenly the fog parts. A leviathan ship bears down on me, its decks lined with people. I see them pointing at me, snapping pictures. The ship alters course and slows. Something comes flying down from the observation deck and splashes nearby. I look over and see a bronze urn, slowly sinking. "Get a life!" someone yells from the ship, and peering through the mist I see Out-At-The-Plate Herring at the rail, a slender blonde in a full-length mink clinging to his arm. She looks oddly familiar.
Suddenly the ship is gone. The fog thins, then lifts as I accelerate, moving ever faster. I spy-hop out of the water to peer ahead. Before me, a hole opens in the sea and I’m drawn toward it. Frantic, I try to swim away, but the current overwhelms my feeble strokes. I slide, whirling, down a gigantic whirlpool toward the darkness.
I don't like this.
I get up to pee.
I used to see a shrink, with whom I discussed my dreams at great length. When Dr. Quahog said "Dreams are deal memos from your soul," I thought that he was speaking metaphorically until the day when I caught his mistress, or one of them, listening to our sessions on the intercom as she sat at a court reporter's machine, taking down my words. Not long after that, one of my weirder nightmares came alive on the tube, a series about Pentagon-based supercops who fight corruption, major crime and sexual harassment in the armed services; the voice over introduced each segment with a summary of the team’s after-action reports.
And in my dream, the one I told Quahog, I was back in the Crotch, handling PR for this operation, and between shootouts with the bad guys rewriting my semiliterate colleagues’ mangled syntax, snarled grammar and bad spelling on after-action reports. I watched the television show's credits very carefully, and sure enough, Dr. Quahog is an associate producer and shares story credit with the executive producer. Asking around, I hear that he’s been shopping dreams around town for years, and had pocketed option money on three or four. When I confronted him, he never flinched: "You know very well that you don't own an idea until it's developed, committed to paper and copyrighted," he said. "If you have problems with the way credits were awarded, appeal to the Writers Guild for arbitration." Then he asked when I wanted to schedule our next session.
Out of that experience came one of my better-selling books, Mind Fucking, which kept me solvent for three years. Unfortunately, I also became persona non grata to the entire mental health community, including psychiatrists, psychologists, marriage and family counselors, psych-social workers — even the most ethical shrink was afraid to let me in his office. Now I tell my dreams to my girlfriend.
Maybe that's why I don't have a girlfriend.
After I void my bladder, I decide against going back to sleep. It's sprinkling when I go outside to net my Sunday Tides, a few drops from patchy white clouds floating beneath a cerulean sky. About two hours later, after reading the funnies, the book review and opinion sections, complete leisurely ablutions and dress for the diamond, it's still sprinkling. I decide to chance the five-mile drive to Brentwood; it might not be raining there, and even if it is, the worst case is that only a few guys will show up. So we'll throw and catch, enjoy a little batting practice. Beats sitting in front of the tube watching millionaire leviathans in color-coordinated jerseys banging into each other while grunting like elephant seals in rut.
But when I turn off the Bonefish Avenue freeway ramp, there’s Les Miserable, waving me down. "They won't let us in — parking lot's full of movie trailers," he says. "Making some kinda World War Two movie." This has happened before: the VA includes streets full of pre-war buildings that resemble old-style military bases.
"What about one of the fields by the Post Office?" I ask.
"Marvel went up to see," he replies. "Took Dead-Pull with him."
I pull onto the shoulder, out of the way. Five more players trickle in and we stand around next to our cars, talking, until Marvel comes back with Dead Pull.
"We're out of luck," he says. "League games by the post office, soccer players all over the Little League field and the junior high is mud — sprinklers ran all night."
"Let's go to breakfast," says Sandy, as Satchel pulls up.
"Grenadier's?" says Marvel, spurring a chorus of dissent. After five minutes of argument, we agree on Bryde's, an unpretentious café known for quick service. With my usual good parking karma, I find a spot down the street and as I leave my car, Satchel calls to me from his Escalade.
"Got a minute?" he says.
"Ain't you coming in?" I say.
"Ate at home."
"If it's urgent, why not call me?"
"Not that important. Anyway, you never know who's listening to your phone these days," says Satchel, glancing around like he thought he was being followed.
"So what's up?"
"Less, and more."
"I'm all ears," I say, wishing he'd get down to it.
"You had a really good idea with Snow Cone," he says.
"I'm not following."
"Basking never called my lawyer back, so I told Snow Cone I'd like to meet him, and he got me right in to see him."
"You didn't tell Snow Cone why?"
"I told him that since Beverly Hills P.D. is world famous, I was pitching a television series idea to Murax about it and kind of wanted to feel department brass out about how much ongoing support we could expect from the city."
"Clever," I say.
"So I had a quick sit-down with Basking, drank a cup of coffee. He apologized for not getting back to Karp. Turns out it's all a big misunderstanding. Mistaken identity. Basking was told that Judah P. Benjamin VI is my real name, but my stage name —"
"Oh no," I say. "They think that you're —"
"But why would they have a hard-on for him?"
"We didn't get into that. My guess is, ‘cause he travels in exalted circles..."
"Could be," I say.
"Anyway, it's all squared away. Basking is an okay dude, get to know him a little. Made a big deal out of apologizing. Said he'd make it up to me."
"They've dropped the charges. I'm to stay out of Beverly Hills when I throw a poker game, and they'll forget about the whole thing."
"That's terrific," I say.
"I owe you."
"What for? I didn't do a damn thing."
"But you give great counsel. You were a buddy. I don't forget my buddies."
"Good. So now that we have the terms of endearment, why don't you come in and buy me breakfast — I didn't bring any cash."
"I'll drink some coffee," says Satchel, climbing out of the car. I look down and sure enough, a chauffeur's billed cap is resting on the passenger seat.
Heading toward our gang in the back room, we’re intercepted by a pretty, middle-aged hostess bearing oversize menus. "I can seat you immediately," she says, then does a double take at Satchel.
"Oh my god!" she shrieks. "It's you! It's really you!"
Satchel switches on the charm like an electric eel sampling live sushi in some briny cafeteria. "It certainly is me," he chuckles, taking her by the arm. "Would you like an autograph?"
The woman is in ecstasy. "Oh, I just never thought — I grew up watching your movies, I mean films. Don't know how you─you don't look a day older. Oh, this is so wonderful!"
Satchel signs a menu with a flourish, kisses the woman's cheek, pats her arm and slides into the booth next to Valentino, who, like the rest of our crowd, is rolling his eyes. "I hate going out with you guys," says Satchel. "You just don't appreciate a fine performance," and we all laugh. Satchel accepts a complimentary bagel with his coffee. After the food comes, he slides a ten under the napkin dispenser and rises.
"That's for Slips and me," he says. "Gotta sail."
Just then the manager, heavy-set and dark, appears, wringing his hands. "Is something wrong?" he says.
"No, not at all," sighs Satchel. "I have an appointment."
"I know it's an imposition," says the manager, "But is there any way we could get an autographed photo to put up in front?"
"Of course," says Satchel, pulling out his wallet and handing the manager a card. "Here's the guy to call. Tell him I said to get you a picture, and he'll take care of you."
"Thank you so very much," says the manager, blissed out. "You bring great honor to our humble place."
"Pleasure is all mine," says Satchel. I walk him out, and on the sidewalk, he leans down to whisper, "Guy has a great racket. Gets free headshots from studio publicity, forges the signatures, and takes whatever the traffic will bear."
"The Coho Archive, right?" I say, which earns me a look.
"He's got all kinds of photos. Use him for my books," I add. "Gets two bills for a genuine forged Kevin Costner. But how do you come out on this?"
"My real name's on that card. Somebody asks for me, he knows to spiel them for some charity he invented. Whatever he drags out of them, we split," he says, shakes my hand and steams majestically towards his Caddy like he owns everything in sight.
That night I dream again and again I float atop foggy swells, eating fried cod. I watch the urn fly from the ship and splash, and as I feel myself being sucked into the whirlpool, I decide to see where it will take me.
© 2018 Marvin J. Wolf
FROM Marvin J. Wolf
On this page are true stories, magazine articles, excerpts from books and unpublished works, short fiction, and photographs, each offering a glimpse of my life, work and times. I'll be posting weekly. Your comments welcome. © Marvin J. Wolf. All rights reserved.