When I say 50s diner, I mean an actual 50s diner, not a plastic nostalgia trap set in some rose-tinted Nineteen-faux-ties. It's clean and neon and does not display aging collectibles. Cars from the era park outside. Locals in pressed and starched uniforms serve outsized burgers and milkshakes blended with effluence of local cow. The black and white tiles shimmer with impossible cleanliness.
I take a seat and scan the diner. Two old men in grizzled faces and work boots. A wholesome, pressed and starched family (Dad in a tie). A group of teens from central casting, talking about the big dance, the Strawberry Festival, the drag race out on RR #4 near Hastings Field. And two girls, aged about sixteen and thirteen. They're obviously sisters and completely out of place (not that anyone notices. It's a dream, after all). The older brunette girl wears a dancer's tights. The younger one has on trendy jeans from the wrong era and a t-shirt. These must be the Sisters. I look more closely. Ah, hell.
They're playing Parcheesi. Is this to be the portended Challenge of the Sisters? I have little truck with Parcheesi and less luck. It simply never had a place in my childhood.
As I approach the girls, I realize I've grown younger. I am sixteen. I know these girls. I'm involved in some way with the older one. We fall into teen routines, talking about weekend plans, the big dance, the Strawberry Festival, the drag race out on RR #4 near Hastings Field. Younger Sister flickers a splash of water from her glass at me.
Back at their house (mom and dad are elsewhere), Older Sister bakes chocolate chip cookies. Younger Sister proclaims herself chaperone and kids us with cryptic but clearly sexual remarks.
"Cut it out, you," says my friend.
"Whaddaya gonna do about it?"
She waves around the wooden spatula and attempts to appear threatening. Younger Sister tries to grab it from her.
Older Sister hands the spatula to me, a wicked grin on her face. "You got a better arm."
Kid Sister looks at me with genuine curiosity regarding my next move. Obviously, that would be A Bridge Too Far and, after a slo-motion swat the makes no pretense of contact, I put the spatula back in its place. Kid Sister laughs a hysterical laugh and hugs me, leaving me baffled.
I am handed a small envelope. It contains some plant matter, green leaf and nondescript twigs.
"Well done,” says a now much older Older Sister. "Thou hast passed the test."
"Get thee to the Old School to complete the Exquisite Folk Remedy."
The girls grow up, settle into young adulthood, marry, have children, and talk on the phone when they cannot be together. In more recent years, they txt. Life in town changes but remains much the same.
An adult again once more, I too, must continue with my quest.
Memory is a strange thing.
Consider the kid's ranting in chapter one of this project. When I was maybe 8 years old, this weird boy in my class went through a thing of asking people to say "May I" and then spell "cup." When someone fell for it, he would accuse them of being disgusting and laugh his ass off. Maybe two decades later, I received a late night phone call from a little girl voice that said "penis, vagina" and hung up amidst laughter in the flavour of my odd old class-mate's. I checked the number, utterly unfamiliar, and pondered calling back, when they called again. A shocked and apologetic woman explained that her daughter was having a sleepover, and on some dare they had been making obscene phone calls, and she hoped I could accept her apology. A good sense of these random-dialing girls may be gleaned from that fact that they didn't understand the concept of call display, and considered "penis, vagina" the height of obscenity. In any case, both of these fairly pointless, very childish incidents I forgot, until they cropped up in a dream, for what possible reason I do not know.
Something similar happens in this chapter. The writing involves some conscious changes, (apart from the addition of description more detailed than I can recall, though true to the dream's spirit). When the original dream shifted to the kitchen, I only observed the events among the three teens. I was not one of them. This is a trifle odd, because in reality, the central event happened in my mid-teens, more or less as depicted here. It passed and vanished as meaningful recollection. Now that it has been elevated by dreaming, I suppose an entire story could be developed around it. For now, it receives only this surreal treatment.