“There are many paths but only one door.”
Nora finally had a car that she’d chosen and not been given out of pity. The reason was Blackjack. She had a knack for shuffling and dealing … and a head for numbers which the casinos rewarded far better than accounting firms. So, with her first big paycheck (plus tips), she’d bought a sports car that went from zero to sixty in three seconds. Or so it seemed.
“My path was opium. You can take a dream path in but …” she slammed her foot down on the gas pedal and began chasing the truck in front of them, “I can’t stand this anymore!” Then she swerved into the opposite lane and began rocketing down the road. Twice they’d barely missed slamming into oncoming traffic because Nora couldn’t stand to be behind any other vehicle, particularly a logging truck.
“Christ Nora, that crucifix isn’t going to protect us!” The road ahead looked clear but they were headed for a blind curve. The trucker leaned into his horn several times and finally Nora braked and fell back in line.
“That’s what you told me that time in New York City, remember? When that guy tried to drag me into the alley.”
“No I think that was Daniel but it really doesn’t matter. Could you just slow down?”
“You weren’t always such a wimp.”
“Yeah. Must be middle age. Say when did you start using opium? You don’t even drink.”
“In high school … with Jason.”
“Isn’t that the guy who lived down on the river by himself?”
“You never approved of any of my boyfriends so why would I tell you anything?”
“That was so long ago. Besides I never knew Jason … you never introduced us. So why opium?”
“It slows the heart and helps you imagine the sublimeness of the transition. But like I said, opium is just one road. The rule is you have to be invited into the tunnel … generally by someone who has recently left this dimension and they only let you go so far unless of course⏤”
“It’s your time to kick the bucket? Hey look. There’s Mount Lassen.” In early September Lassen’s almost always a rock pile and the forests surrounding it, brittlely dry. “What was the name of that town with the great bakery?”
They were driving from Reno to Ashland Oregon to watch Katie Girl perform as the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. KG was only in her late twenties but already grim and stocky enough for character roles. According to Nora, David Josiah lived on the east coast in a tight and judgmental community of Marian Helpers, men devoted to defending the Virgin Mary’s virginity. He’d become so rigid in his devotion to the truths of the Bible that even Mrs. C was too liberal for him.
They never spoke of Chad. They probably never would.
“It’s called Buttercup. We’ll stop and get a pastry.”
And maybe hot chocolate, Brandy thought, and you can tell me how to navigate dreamscapes through death tunnels.