Sunday, April 5, 2015

It could have happened

I was standing in the backyard of my brick Georgian home on Kentucky Street in Chicago. It was wide and green, dotted with maple saplings. It looked exactly like the backyard of my parents' home in Pennsylvania, where I grew up. I looked over at my neighbor’s equally spacious backyard. I could see my neighbor Steve gathering equipment for a camping trip. People kept coming into his yard and stacking up their camping equipment near his—apparently a large group was headed out together.

As I was standing in my yard, near the house, I noticed a man going into my garage at the back of the property.

I walked across the yard and followed him into the garage. I saw the man and several other people, looking through boxes, sweeping, moving chairs and other garage materiel. The floor was clean and swept. A girl about eleven was asleep, wrapped in a blanket, near one wall.

Another little girl, about age seven, skinny and lithe, was climbing up on shelves built into the side of the garage. The shelves were as wide as the garage, and went up to the roof, which seemed to be two stories high. She was about halfway up, rummaging through plastic tubs and baskets, looking for something. The man on the floor was directing her. The tubs and baskets took up most of the room on the narrow shelves. There was barely room for the little girl’s feet on the edge of the shelf, but she seemed as surefooted as a mountain goat.

“What’s going on?” I asked the man. “She can’t be up there! it’s dangerous. I’m liable if she falls and gets hurt.”

He told her to get down. She climbed nimbly down and stood next to him.  

He was sincere and rugged, about forty years old, with dark hair and black eyes. I wasn’t afraid of him, but I was mystified. A woman opened the side door of the garage and walked in. I couldn’t tell how old she was. Maybe she was his wife? His mother? She had some gray in her hair. She looked nervous.

“Are you part of the group that’s going camping with Steve?” I asked.

The man looked at me, his expression blank, and I realized I had it all wrong.

“Are you planning to live here?” I said. “In the garage?” I looked around. We never locked the service door of the garage, and rarely used it for the car. We mainly used it to store the lawnmower and lots of stuff we never used. Old paint cans and flower pots lined the lower shelves.

The man nodded. We watched as the rest of the family—there must have been six or seven kids and a couple of adults—continued to sweep and organize. They went in and out of the service door. The little one who had been asleep near the wall woke up, unwrapped herself from the blanket, and stood next to the nervous woman.

I was sad and confused. How could I kick them out? Clearly they were homeless, and trying to make the best of a terrible situation. I introduced myself, and shook his hand. I reached over to shake the woman's hand, too, and noticed that her eyes still looked anxious.

I left the garage and went back into the house. It was Easter, and the family had already sat down around the table and starting eating. My parents were both there, and my former brother in law, and my aunt and uncle. Others too, but I don’t remember their faces.

“There are twelve people living in our garage,” I announced.

The table was filled with food—ham, potatoes, salad, green beans, dinner rolls—and everyone was helping themselves and talking. The talking stopped as soon as I made my weird announcement. 

Then people started giving suggestions about what I should do about this unexpected development. Nobody seemed to be too surprised, and no one got up from the table. They just talked about it as if we were discussing something in the news.

I went outside and stood in front of my house. The sun shone brightly. Two white SUVs sped down the street and screeched to a stop in front of my neighbor’s house. The SUVs had INS logos on the side. Men piled out wearing body armor and carrying rifles. They huddled for a moment outside the vehicles. Somehow I knew they were planning their assault on the family in my garage.

I made an instant decision. I ran down the alley on the side of my house. I wanted to reach the family in the garage, to warn them. As I reached the edge of my house, I saw the man and a couple of the girls outside of the garage, in the alley.

I waved my arms frantically, telling them by incoherent semaphore to run! Run! The man saw me, and knew instantly what I was saying. He motioned to the girls to run, and then he raced inside the garage to warn the others. They started coming out of the garage and scattering down the alley.

Meanwhile, as I ran past the edge of my house, I could see an agent closing in, running down the gangway next to my neighbor’s house, holding his rifle. Other INS agents closed in from other angles. 

The family had not gotten far. The agents chased them and pointed guns at them. When they saw they were caught, they stopped and put their hands up. They looked scared.


And then I woke up, dammit.

I told my dream to Mr. Peevie and M. Peevie on the way home from Easter lunch. 

"Noooo!" M. Peevie yelled, when I got to the end. "What happened next?"

I wish I knew. I hate it when I'm having an interesting, adventurous dream, and I wake up before I find out the end.

We were headed home through our old neighborhood, where we lived in the brick Georgian. We drove slowly past the house, and turned down the alley. 

"I can see the family trying to get away!" M. Peevie said, looking at the garage and peering down the alley.

Why are some dreams so vivid? Where do these details come from--INS? people living in my garage? My former BIL?

It's all so very mysterious.