"LIKE A DREAM" — © 1987 - 1999 by Charles Dobie


Charles Dobie

First published 1993 in "Queeries" by Arsenal Pulp Press

Toronto, last summer : Peter refuses to get out of bed; he has stuffed three pillows around his head, determined to hide from the morning sun and birds. I can stand the sticky heat no longer, so I get dressed, feed the cat, and go outside in search of milk and newspapers.

A house down the street is having their monthly yard sale, so I wander over. Record albums spill from a ragged cardboard box onto the lawn; the top album makes me pause -- something about the title. Probably just more yuppie shit, I think, but what the hell, it's only a quarter. Half an hour later, I'm sitting on the livingroom floor, stunned at the tears running down my face, listening to the whales.

Anchored in Tasu Sound, Queen Charlotte Islands, 1962 : I've locked myself into the sonar control room. I'm trembling, weak with shame and anger. Bastards! I'd like to kill them!

I flop into the operator's swivel chair; its grungy familiarity helps to calm me. There is a muted roar from the loudspeakers on the bulkhead, and I realise the equipment is powered on. I glance at the compasses, run my fingers over the switches on the control panel, and fantasize that I'm about to sink a submarine.

There's a tentative tapping at the door, then a shave-n-a-haircut rap. It has to be Casey. He's never seen me really upset like this, but I unlock the door and let him in. I turn quickly and sit down, trying not to let him see my face.

He sits in the chair beside me. As usual, we don't say much. He pretends to be interested in the switches and dials, and caresses them gingerly, one by one. He is my age: almost twenty. Two years of gorging on Navy food and wrestling the 4-inch gun has barreled his chest, and he stinks deliciously of rum. His faded blue work shirt is speckled with ancient paint; the sleeves are rolled above his elbows, revealing brown arms scarred with flakey, white trails from his constant scratching. His hands are those of a mechanic: rough and powerful, the left thumbnail a black souvenier of steel hitting flesh.


"LIKE A DREAM" — © 1987 - 1999 by Charles Dobie