November 10

            In my dream I see her, or maybe she sees me sleepwalking and wants to guide my way. Maybe the simple touch and the simple smile and the simplicity of this sweet soul makes nothing simple anymore. Complications can be brilliant if they keep you going and running breathing. 

            I know you. 

            But we haven’t even met. 

            I can hear you. 

            But I can’t say a single word. 

            This dream is hazy, like the window clouded over waiting to be wiped clear. 

            Wake up and watch her go.  

            But she doesn’t let go of my mind. 

            “Be careful and don’t step out onto the road,” she says. 

            The angel, the vision, the mirage. 

            “Are you real?” I ask. 

            “Are you?” she asks me. 

            And I don’t feel real in this dream. I don’t feel alive. I can’t see myself and it’s all dark. 

            I need to go to move to find to do something. 

            “I need to leave,” I tell her. 

            “No you don’t. You can stay here. Let it go. You’ve already come so far. It’s okay. Just let it pass.”

            “What are you talking about? Let what go? Let what pass?”         

            But suddenly she’s gone. She passed. And I wake up. Another new day. Alone. With memories of the ghost of a woman.

            I can feel it coming—we can never go back. 

            Who said that? 

            Nobody answers. They rarely do. 

            So I stretch and I sit up and I yawn and I do every single thing I’ve been doing day after day after day. 

            Where are those smiles and the laughter and the pitter patter and the giggles and the tiny shoes and the missing socks and the noise in the morning and the noise at the night? The only thing that greets me are the rustles of the sheets and my feet and my aching bones.

            Okay. November 10. So let’s get something done. 

            Something, anything, right? 

**

            He arrives at 11:34 a.m. Looking like his “How To Be Your Own Personal Edward Snowden” class just ended. Skinny jeans and narrow glasses and studying eyes and all analytical. 

            “What’s-a-happenin’-hot stuff?” Cameron says in an Asian accent. 

            Cameron is the only Millennial I know who loves to quote from ‘80s movies. But come on. I mean, who doesn’t like the 80’s? Once I saw the whole cassette mix-tape in Guardians of the Galaxy, I knew the movie was special. And I knew it would make like a gazillion dollars. 

            “Sixteen Candles,” I say. 

            I always have to tell him the name of the movie. Usually I get them right.

            “’His name is Long Duck Dong,’” Cameron quotes. “I love that movie.”

            “Yes, indeed. John Hughes. They don’t make those kind of movies anymore.”

            “That’s what old people say,” Cameron says, a smile actually peeking out on his usually serious face. “But you’re right.”

            “Lunch break?” I ask. 

            “Yes. Want to see what your latest recommendations happen to be. “

            Cameron isn’t the warm fuzzy type, nor is he a chatterbox. Unless you get him onto the very right subject at the very right moment. Then he won’t leave. He’s an avid reader and likes my tastes even though he’ll mock me for half the stuff I suggest. He wanders back to the shelf featuring my latest “picks” that I always update weekly. For the five who pay attention. 

            “The Sun Also Rises?” I hear him call out. “There’s originality.”

            “Ever read it?”

            “No. Is that a new author?” 

            “Funny.”

            I walk over to see him browsing at the half dozen books. 

            “A Simple Plan? Who’s Scott Smith?” Cameron asks. 

            “That was a bestseller. A thriller. They made a movie out of it. Imagine finding a crapload of money and then everything going to crap.”

            “Sounds kinda crappy,” he says in one of those tones that makes me wonder if he’s joking or not. 

            “So were you out last night protesting downtown?” I ask. 

            “Some of us have jobs,” Cameron says with no emotion. “A lot of my friends were. But they don’t have jobs.”

            “What do you think of the election?” 

            Cameron leafs through a book and just shakes his head. “I have no idea. I wanted Bernie Sanders to get the nomination.”

            “Of course you did.”

            Cameron gives me his meticulous stare. “I could talk policies but I know they would all sound like a foreign language to you.”

            “Exactly,” I say. “So no policy talking in here. But hey—I do have a question for you. Or more like a favor.”

            “What’s that?” 

            His curious eyes look up from the book he’s holding. 

            “I know how you love detective novels and movies,” I say. “And how you have always dreamed of becoming one.”

            “You opening your own practice?”

            This time the sarcasm is pretty obvious. 

            “No. But I have a job for you. One that I’ll pay you for.”

            I hand him a copy of the list of names Jack gave me.

            “I want you to check out who these people are. Look around online. I assume most are local.”

            Cameron looks confused. “You want me to spy on them?” 

            “No,” I say, then pause for a moment. “Well, I guess you can. How good are you at spying?” 

            “Oh, I’m good. Nobody pays attention to me when I’m right in front of them. Especially women.”

            I laugh. “I never know when you’re joking.”

            “I’m serious,” he says. “So what’s this list? Who are these people?” 

            “I can’t tell you that. A friend of mine is in trouble. I think he’s having some sort of breakdown—maybe a mid-life crisis or something. These people have something to do with it. I want you to find out how they’re connected. Like if they all go to the same church or the same country club or graduated from the same high school.”

            Or if they’re all part of a secret, Satanic cult. 

            Cameron looks intrigued as he studies the list. 

            “I’ll pay you,” I add.

            Like the rest of the world, Cameron could use extra money. He works in an accounting office but doesn’t make much. 

            “Can you throw in some free books?” he asks. 

            I nod, then gesture at A Simple Plan in his hand. “Sure. You can start by taking that one. But just to warn you–it’s not a happy story.”

            Cameron slips the list of names in the paperback. “Okay, I’ll snoop around. I hope this novel isn’t some kind of foreshadowing of things to come.” 

**

            “One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought . . .”

            The quote from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein demonstrates an effective use of foreshadowing. I’m on my laptop looking at famous examples of foreshadowing in fiction. It’s late and I should be closing up the shop, or maybe I should be doing something else with my life, but no. I’m here being reminded of the power of this literary device in popular and classic literature. Like the following from Of Mice and Men.

            “You seen what they done to my dog tonight?  They says he wasn’t no good to himself nor nobody else.  When they can me here I wisht somebody’d shoot me.  But they won’t do nothing like that.  I won’t have no place to go, an’ I get no more jobs.”

            If you know the bleak ending of John Steinbeck’s novel, then you can see the foreshadowing going on. 

            I reach an example from Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. 

            “The leaves fell early that year.”

            This little seemingly meaningless bit of description near the beginning of the novel is actually pretty profound since it foreshadows the early death of nurse Catherine Barkey. 

            There are many examples from Shirley Jackson’s classic and haunting “The Lottery.” I remember reading the short story as a kid simply because it was just that: short. The title makes you think of one thing, but then of course, the ending stuns you by showing you something else. This piece of throwaway information proves to be quite impactful.

            “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones; Bobby and Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroix– the villagers pronounced this name ‘Dellacroy’–eventually made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raids of the other boys.”

            A great pile of stones in one corner.

            Ones that will be used in the stoning of the person who picks a paper slip with a black dot. 

            As I close my MacBook Air, it dawns on me that all the foreshadowing examples have the same theme. If this was my attempt at foreshadowing, I think the English professor would give me a big, fat “F” and tell me to try again. 

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