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Dream a little dream of me or is it be careful what you wish for?
Daydreams Can Tell
Amanda hadn’t daydreamed yet. She picked at a salad, while I worked on a pasta primavera. I didn’t want to be there.
I glanced at my watch. “Have you been on a blind date before?”
“No.” She stared down at her plate.
Now a daydream drifted in from her. My great-great-great-grandfather came from another world to explore Earth. It rained most of the time where he’d lived, on the other planet. He found Southern California and stayed on. My ability to catch daydreams comes from him.
My date dreamed about fries. You could almost smell the fat that sizzled on them. They had crusty dark edges, where skin clung to the potato, and soft brown insides. Tiny white salt crystals broke their tanned smoothness. They promised, at first contact with your tongue, to melt into a climax of taste.
I felt my left eyebrow twitch. It does that whenever I’m puzzled. I said, “Are you on South Beach or Atkins?”
She put down her fork. “South Beach. But how did you figure that out?”
We sat at an outdoor coastal restaurant. A summer day faded around us. The smell of ocean spray mixed with the aroma of food.
I ran a hand through my short-cropped hair. “As a writer, I’ve trained myself to observe people.”
I’d published, “What Your Pet Frog Needs from You,” in a rural fair catalog.
She said, “You got it right this time.”
A cornflower blue shirt outlined her shoulders. She had freckled arms and wide wrists. I’d noticed calf muscles where her desert khaki Capri pants ended, and sensible shoes, when we’d first met outside the restaurant about an hour ago. Now a cool ocean breeze messed her curled-at-the-ends shoulder-length hair, which she’d tied into a practical ponytail. She had a wide forehead, and her ears stuck out. Her hazel eyes teased me to try her.
I sought a regular look. I had on a Dodgers gray t-shirt. My big head and broad shoulders made up for the few extra pounds around my belly. Navy blue shorts and sandals covered me.
I said, "Read somewhere that Jennifer Aniston's on South Beach, but she's got nothin' on you."
She laughed, her nose curling up. Now she played with a raven-black strand of hair. “You’re sweet.”
This scared me. I’d accepted the date only as a favor to my Aunt Dorothy, my dad’s older sister. She, my aunt, knew this sweet girl, Amanda, who’d keep me out of trouble. I should make an honest effort to get to know Amanda, and be nice to her. If I didn’t, then dinners, when I visited, wouldn’t be the same ever again.
I sipped water. “How did Aunt Dorothy get you to show up?”
Amanda said, “Dorothy asked me to, right after I’d finished this delicious meatloaf dinner she cooks up. I couldn’t say no to anything, after that slice of heaven. What about you?”
I liked Amanda, so acting interested came easy. I said, “She told me she’d stop giving me the meatloaf dinner.”
She leaned forward. “You love that meatloaf too?”
A warning sounded inside me. I knew how these things went. I’d say, yes, I love that meatloaf. Next, we’d be two souls discovering each other in a lonely world, and she’d ask to see me again.
I shrugged. “It’s okay.”
Amanda rocked back a little. “She’s a great cook, isn’t she?”
I did the tightrope act on Cirque du Soleil. I said, “Yes, she is. She also thinks you’re sweet.”
Suddenly, Amanda’s eyelashes drooped. Lines showed on her forehead. She said, "I like you, Adam, but this is all wrong."
She didn’t want me. I’d done my best to please her, but she’d made up her mind. I’d tell Aunt Dorothy.
I leaned back on my chair. Amanda wouldn’t ask to see me again, unless I chased her as intently as I’d studied pet frogs. That research, of course, had elevated me to the world of published authorship. But I’d probably come up short with her. Abruptly, I felt lonely for no reason that I knew. Then the feeling went away, and curiosity bugged me.
I said, “Amanda, I’m fully experienced in the mating rituals of various smooth-skinned web-footed largely aquatic tailless agile leaping amphibians, we call frogs. Ergo,” and here, I switched from repeating the dictionary to imitating the Architect in Matrix II, “I’m curious to learn why you consider me unfit.”
A weird light danced on her oversized pupils. Then she laughed again. She said, “You’re so funny.”
Now the server interrupted us.
“You guys ready for some dessert?” She held up the dessert menu, between acrylic-nailed thumb and forefinger.
Amanda wiped the corner of her mouth. “Not for me, thanks. What about you, Adam?”
Our server turned to me. When she flashed me a bleached-white-teeth smile, a booger trembled on the left oval nostril of her nose.
I said, “What’s good?”
The piece of dry mucus could tumble any moment now, as it shook whenever she spoke or moved. “We serve a pitcher of hot fudge with our Big Mountain Chocolate Fudge Cake. It’s really good.”
My fingers drummed the table, even as my head moved to follow the tiny ball. “I’ll take it.”
“Thanks, you guys.” She walked away.
My eyes followed her since my mind still wondered whether the ball would fall.
"You like her, do you?" Amanda’s voice had dropped to a whisper. It made me glance at her.
Next, the sound of a crash startled me. Our server lay splat on the floor, with food and broken plates sticking to her body. The surrounding diners gasped when she raised her face. Asparagus hung from her nostrils, and mashed potatoes capped her eyes.
A daydream had floated in from Amanda prior to the accident. Now I got around to it. It made my belly tingle. I gawked at her.
She shook her head. Her face scrunched up. She said, "There I go again. You won't understand."
Her daydream had given her away. I grabbed her wrist. "Listen to me. I understand more than you think."
Her nose got strawberry-red. She said, "No, you don't. I’ve the ability to injure, kill, and annihilate with a mere wish. It runs in my family. But it can skip generations. My grandaunt had it. Now I do. You could say, I’m a modern-day witch. I was jealous of our waitress...I’m so sorry."
The special power skipping generations sounded right. I knew that to be true about mine as well.
Now an urge to clear the misunderstanding ran through me. I hadn’t flirted with our server. Moreover, Amanda attracted me. In my eagerness to sooth her, I knocked over a glass of red wine into Amanda’s lap.
I said, “I’m sorry.”
She slammed the empty wineglass back on the table. She said, "Don’t be. It’s all me. First, I can’t eat guiltlessly. Then, I can’t squirm like any normal person when you ogle the waitress. I’ve to knock her down. Now, I’ve red wine all over me. I wish everything would just e..."
"Don't say it," I said.
No training on earth can prepare you for emergencies such as this one. Even as I warned her to stop, my eyes spotted a large plate of steaming fries on the next table. Now I became a frog, leaping toward the fries, my target. A frog uses its tongue to catch an insect, so I improvised.
My hand became the tongue, and it streaked forward to grab the prey. It took me yet another agile hop to return and skid to a breathless halt by our table. Now I quit the frog-act and banged the fries in front of Amanda.
"...n...," she said. She stared down her nose at the fries. She didn’t finish her wish to end everything.
"Smell the fries," I said.
Amanda breathed in. Then I watched her eyes flutter, tongue twirl, and jaws move, as she devoured the fries.
Now she licked her lips. "Yum. Thank you. You’re so good. I must see you again, Adam. Anyways, I needed just that. How did you know?"
I smiled a modest smile. Next, I’d have to tell her that we published authors are known to be perceptive, and that we sometimes save the world.