A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 93

A friend from the Galapagos.

Sunday,  June 14

A turtle appeared in my dreams. A box turtle-size guy, it was dark brown—so dark that it was almost black. And as it lumbered along the ground, a much smaller turtle—about the size of a quarter—jumped from the rear of the larger turtle’s shell. Then another, even smaller turtle emerged. And as the larger fellow continued to walk along, the two little ones began jumping past each other, almost like crickets, they leapt past each other again and again in what seemed to be a game. 

Does such a dream have any meaning—a portent of anything?

Glancing out the French doors in our bedroom, I see a baby cardinal sitting on the stoop. He’s munching on something, for once not hassling its parents about food the way the babies often do. They can be seen flying around in pursuit of mom or dad, all the while squeaking demands. Or sometimes they alight near a parent and whine while eagerly flapping their wings. “Feed me, FEEEED  me!” they seem to be saying, imploring as aggressively as the carnivorous plant in the movie Little Shop of Horrors

There are many box turtles here, but none are brown like the one in my dream. Instead, they are dark green. Once we encountered two in our front yard. It was a nightmarish scene: One turtle’s back foot was somehow trapped inside the shell of another turtle. You could see the entrapped one growing more and more angry, even as the imprisoner seemed willing to let go but somehow unable to do so. We wanted to help, worrying that the angry one might harm the other. But we couldn’t separate them. Then, somehow the entrapped one got loose, and they both wandered away. Since then, we just see single ones, and sometimes they can move very quickly. I think they live in the woods nearby and come out on very hot days hoping to find some water in our yard. Like the birds, they seem excited by the sound of running water.

In other wildlife news, our rabbit reappeared and then disappeared again. The cardinal family is here constantly, as are the very talkative gray catbirds and the usual profusion of finches, chickadees, and titmice. Sometimes we see woodpeckers, who come in three different sizes.

There’s also a young deer in the front yard this morning. A couple of days back, when I was grilling something out on our brick patio, I heard a strange, bleating noise. I thought it must be an unusual bird. Instead, in just a moment a very, very small deer ran right by me, making a weird, I’m-in-distress sound. I’ve never seen such a small deer—at the Westminster Dog Show, it would fit into the “toy” group. 

I always worry about these little animals. There are no predators to keep the numbers of deer down—no predators, at least, aside from automobiles.

Dinner: leftover chicken paprikash, noodles, and a green salad.

Entertainment: Episodes of the Polish TV show The Woods.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 43

What dreams may come?

Monday, April 20

We waited in the office lobby. When the meeting ended, Sir Andrew rushed past us dismissively, then continuing to walk toward the stairs, he indicated that Gareth should come with him. Pointing at a typed page he carried, he angrily singled out a paragraph:

You’ve got to pick up every stihch. You can’t miss even one. Every stihch. 

This must be corrected, he said.

A squeamish looking Gareth nodded. Sir, he said, in terms of the work. We’re pretty stretched at the moment. Must this be tended to immediately?

I’m telling you, said Sir Andrew. Do this first. Whether you should receive a significant posting or just a lower level one depends upon getting it fixed.

Why should I have such strange dreams at 4:30 a.m., with arrogant, aquiline-faced aristocrats and their squirming underlings? It must have to do with watching too much British TV, but there may be echoes here of Babylon Berlin as well.

We’re anxiously awaiting our Peapod delivery of groceries, scheduled for tomorrow between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. Such is life under the quarantine—it’s supposedly heroic to do nothing but wait.

Emily is worried about the weather—rain is predicted, and the delivery guy has to leave our stuff outside where we can wipe off any viruses before transporting things inside. We have our rubber gloves and a spray bottle of diluted bleach, which can be used to squirt tins of stuff. Fresh veggies are supposed to require only a rinse with water, while boxes will get only a wipe-off with a paper towel. The virus is said to be able to live longer on metal and for only a few hours on cardboard.

Emily is in charge of the Peapod list, and one can make corrections or additions until 11:59 p.m. tonight. I keep thinking of stuff that may or may not be on the list—then asking her to check. Are we due to get more onions? What about canned tomatoes? And given our experience last time, there would seem to be only a 50-50 chance that any given thing will actually be delivered. What we really need are walnuts, honey, oatmeal, and any sort of meats. I figure that after Peapod comes and goes, I will likely have to go down to a nearby bodega and get several of these things.

For some time, I have had lots of dreams, probably due to a prescription drug that I take. These dreams are not often scary, and sometimes just entertaining. Over the past years, many have taken place at my childhood home, on one or two occasions featuring an intruder who’s trying to get in through the back door. Here, just to keep things lively, are a few examples:

I am spreading tomato sauce on a concrete walkway in a basement (not a familiar place). This seems odd even to me, but I had seen someone doing it and that made it seem a good idea. Still, I want to hurry in case someone sees me and asks what on earth I am doing. I use a spoon and just splash the stuff around, then spread it out evenly as you would with a pizza.

Before bed, I consider having some ice cream, but I fall asleep instead. Then, in the middle of the night after getting up to go to the bathroom, I dream that I hear Emily clanking her spoon against her bowl: It seems she got ice cream and I didn’t.

It is night, and I am at my childhood home with my mother. Distantly, I hear her say something like “I’ll be right back.” And she disappears. I search for her in the dark, calling her name out the back door, then up into the attic, then out the front door into the darkness. There is no response, but I am sure she will reappear. (In fact, she died in 2005.)

And finally, a quote from Oliver Sacks’ “The Landscape of His Dreams”: “One may be born with the potential for a prodigious memory, but one is not born with a disposition to recollect; this comes only with changes and separations in life—separations from people, from places, from events and situations.…All of us, finally, are exiles from the past.”

Tonight’s dinner: Linguini with asparagus pesto and a lettuce salad with cucumber. Lots of cookies.

Tonight’s entertainment: one Twilight Zone and two episodes of Babylon Berlin.