This is a letter I received from a fan, Darryl Trapp, who read my newest book: The Home for the Friendless
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered that I simply cannot eat and drink the same things that I did when I was in my twenties. First to go were Vodka Gimlets (lime juice = acid indigestion). Next it was eggs (I developed an allergy.) After last night, I’m crossing red pepper hummus off the list.
When I was a kid, my mother was convinced that comic books, scary movies, and Dr. Seuss would give me nightmares. The only time I could get a fix of “Green Eggs And Ham” was if I snuck off to the children’s table at the doctor’s waiting room and pretended to be reading “Highlights” magazine. I can honestly say, though, as far as I can recall, none of those taboo objects of my childhood actually caused my nightmares, at least not directly. I read comic books at my best friend’s house, saw both “Psycho” and “The Birds” as a young child (thanks to my older siblings), and feasted on Dr. Seuss books at the doctor’s office. I had nightmares, but they usually had to do with flying and suddenly dropping out of the sky.
I’ve come to the conclusion that certain foods bring on these nightmares. Like Ebeneezer Scrooge, that “bit of undigested potato, that dab of gravy” can wreak havoc on a night’s sleep faster that you can say “double dip sundae.” Last night I had a snack of pita chips and red pepper hummus before going to bed. I paid dearly for it. I dreamed myself into Betty Auchard’s book, The Home for the Friendless – but I was an eight year old Betty whose mother was taking her for an operation.
I (as Betty) had developed a weird, mysterious growth, underneath the surface of the skin on my face, and it needed to be removed…not my face, but the growth. Without batting an eye, Betty’s mother, Waneta, escorted me to the local doctor, who evidently didn’t feel the need to operate within the confines of a hospital, but instead of an operating room, he used a hybridized Airstream trailer that was parked in his driveway. The sign on the roof said, THE DOCTOR IS IN. Very convenient for the emergency removal of almost anything.
The operation was a success, but to my horror, I discovered that the “growth” was a whole other face, complete with nose, chin, brow and lips, which the doctor had somehow removed all in one piece. It looked a little like the mask used in The Phantom of the Opera; white and waxy. Disoriented from the anesthesia, and terrified by this bizarre turn of events, I slipped away while the doctor was otherwise occupied, wanting only to be home with my mother. Keep in mind that I was a homeless 8-year-old Betty in this dream.
Moving from backyard to alleyways, I traveled from suburb to downtown. Nothing looked familiar. This was Cedar Rapids, Iowa of the 1940’s, complete with streetcars and congested with pedestrian traffic, but with a very different topography. The streets had changed and suddenly bisected at acute angles. The real Cedar Rapids is laid out in a square grid. In the dream, buildings shot up to impossible heights, bypassing the modern skyscrapers that exist today. Hills popped up where none had existed before. Everything had taken on an odd, dusty coloration.
I wandered into a department store looking for help, and suddenly even the laws of physics had deserted me. Without warning I found myself climbing up the banister of a set of stairs sideways as if it were a ladder. A trapdoor loomed in the floor – which was actually the ceiling of this topsy-turvy world. I could see two saleswomen, far below or was it above? I tried calling out to them for help, but my voice dwindled away, like a whisper on the wind. I was lost and alone, hurting and sad, and all my eight-year-old self wanted was to find my way back home. I was lost and friendless.
I woke up shaken and sweaty. From here on, I’m sticking to warm milk for a bed time snack. And just to be safe, I’m avoiding Dr. Seuss.
By Darryl Trapp, a grown up man