In this dream, as in others, we are in a movie. In this movie, as in others, my partner and I are in some kind of trouble. The actors who play my partner and me have been paired together before on many occasions; audiences respond to our unlikely chemistry. This time it is late and we are in an unfamiliar, ramshackle part of town, pushing a shopping cart full of things we need. I know what’s in the cart and what it’s for, but I won’t when I wake up and try to write this down. We pass a couple of guys, one of them big, one of them wearing a red shirt. They are trouble, we know. They look at us as we pass and we can feel them sizing us up, wondering what's in the cart.

We come to a dead end and have to turn back. We see the same misfits again, approaching us. I tell my partner C’mon, and I jerk the cart left onto a side street. The guys who are trouble start running towards us, and I start running too, pushing the cart as fast as it will go. There is nobody around to help us. The big guy intercepts me and grabs the cart as I go by. I jerk it loose and head towards a gas station. The guy in the red shirt has a BB gun. He starts shooting at me from the parking lot of the gas station as I run towards the door. I feel the pellets sting my back and hands, dimly. Then I am inside, ducking for cover.

The clerk of the gas station has a weapon under the counter, a sniper rifle. She is ex-SWAT. I know I am in good hands with her because she has saved us before, my partner and I, in alternate endings of this movie and in other movies. The guy in the red shirt is still shooting his BB gun at my partner who is offscreen. The clerk, played by Daryl Hannah, takes careful aim through the window. I can see what she sees through the sight of her rifle. She is aiming for the barrel of his toy gun as he fires on my buddy. She doesn’t want to hurt the guy in the red shirt, just remove his ability to harm people. I have a premonition, though, because I have been in this movie and others like it before. She squeezes the trigger, exploding the window, and the slug blows away the guy's gun along with his thumb. Karma is a recurring theme in my movies.

Now we are all standing together in the gas station, my partner, the ex-SWAT clerk played by Daryl Hannah, me (who am played by Jimmy Smitts, it suddenly occurs to me), and the guy in the red shirt who stands stoically with a flap of skin where his thumb used to be. The big guy who was his partner has apparently fled the scene. He was a flaky partner all along, not like mine. We are all relieved it is over. I am being my warm, wry self, turning on the charm for Daryl Hannah's sake. I can tell she wants me and this is enormously gratifying, because I want her too. She is coolly competent, a professional to be sure, but with a core of barely-bridled sexiness--you can tell she lets her hair down on the weekends. I make a joke about how she keeps saving our keisters, my partner’s and mine. This is a meta-joke; it refers to the several other movies we've been in over the years, and the recurring theme of her saving our keisters at a crucial moment. She laughs harder than the joke deserves because she is in the heady throes of an incipient love. I could just as well make a joke about how she's always falling in love with me right about now, but that would kill the mood of jovial reunion, not to mention budding romance, that has taken hold of us, and put us in mind of the usual conclusion in which she mysteriously vanishes and it doesn't even occur to me to wonder what happened to her.

As we leave the gas station to get a ride home in her truck, we pass through the waiting room of the gas station. There is a lady reading a magazine who looks up and realizes she is in the presence of celebrities. We are fresh from our denouement, oozing charisma, and the lady is star struck. She tells Daryl to “hang on to that one,” talking about me. I say something self-deprecating about my receding hairline. The woman agrees that I am not the best looking guy, but my confidence and sense of humor are what she finds sexy. This annoys me but I take it in stride. We leave the gas station and get into a yellow humvee.

Luis Guzmàn, who plays my quiet but competent partner, pilots the hummer back to my place. Normally I would ride up front, but the guy in the red shirt called shotgun and anyway I am interested in some back seat shenanigans with Daryl Hannah. As we pull out of the parking lot, snow begins to fall. The guy in the red shirt is hah-ing on the window and drawing obscene pictures in his breathspots. They fade away and he makes more of them. It gets colder outside the car and warmer inside and instead of fading away the breathspots begin to expand, while the drawings themselves fill with fog.

Soon all the windows are opaque; the thumbless kid in the red shirt, a mere child, giggles hysterically and draws broad, intricate murals of what we are doing in the back seat. My partner keeps both hands on the wheel, his steady eyes focused on the road that none of the rest of us can see. In the back seat we can feel the vehicle move surely beneath us, making all the familiar turns. Finally we are decelerating, making a last slow turn up over the hump of a sidewalk, into a carport. The engine echoes off the nearby wall of the house briefly, before Luis turns off the car. I am in the front seat, and there is no kid, no ex-SWAT clerk. We sit there for a minute, two partners at the end of a long day on the job.

Simultaneously, we realize we lost the shopping cart. The Super is gonna have kittens when he hears.