owning the fifth wheel (a Broken World story)
I stood at the pump and watched the two cars approach. Each loaded with camping gear and dripping with recreational equipment; kayaks tied to the roof, mountain bikes attached to the back end. Mud covered both of them.
On cue a happy couple poured out of each vehicle and began to fill their tanks. It was obvious that they were all in love with each other. In love with the outdoors and in love with what the road ahead had in store for them. Appreciation for where they were and what they were doing practically oozed from their tanned pores.
I realize that pores, being small openings in the skin, can’t actually get tan, but even if I’d have mentioned it to them they wouldn’t have cared. “Tan our pores all you like!” they would have probably replied.
My tank was full but I lingered, hand on the hose, so I could eavesdrop a little. I had to know more about these four.
Once their nozzles had been inserted and the process of fueling was underway they met at the little space between the cars. They were all smiling. I was smiling, drinking in their hiking boots, cut-off jean shorts and flannel shirts. I stood there in my khakis, an unseen fifth wheel.
Finally one of them spoke…
“I had the weirdest dream last night. It must have been the lumpy sleeping bag.”
“What was it?”
I noted that when I tell my friends I had an odd dream, they never ask to hear about it.
“Well, for some reason, in the world I was living in, everyone peed down into giant plastic tubs.”
There was a little tittering amongst the other three.
Four, if you include my tittering.
“When I looked down into my tub… barrel.. toilet… whatever… there was this little troll-like thing looking up at me. I jumped and moved down to the next tub and sure enough there was another one of these bald alien-looking gremlin guys standing in that one too. Standing there in a few inches of urine, looking up at me.”
Their titters turned into sniggers. I didn’t know why they didn’t come right out and laugh, probably had something to do with lumpy sleeping bags or something. I did not snigger. I’m not really a sniggerer. I might titter now and then but I will typically move straight to laughing.
“I had to pee and in whatever world I was in, people obviously peed on these strange creatures, so I peed on it. I peed on it!”
Now laughter took hold. I couldn’t tell if the dreamer was laughing. My view was blocked.
When the chuckles died down someone asked the obviously question; “Why did this world have little troglodytes lurking in the toilets in the first place?”
“I don’t know. I really don’t. They clearly didn’t enjoy it. They looked so sad in there… getting peed on.”
I realized that I’d been standing there way too long. It was time for me to put replace the nozzle, screw on my gas cap and get back in my car. I felt cheated somehow though. I’d not heard the conversation I’d anticipated. On my way to the front seat I stepped between the pumps and gave a small wave to the four young people standing there.
“Don’t worry about it” I said, “I bet you had to pee as soon as you woke up.”
The dreamer nodded to the affirmative.
“That wasn’t your subconscious talking. It was your bladder. You just have a weird bladder.” They all laughed. Not a snigger amongst them. I appreciated that.
With that I got into my car and drove off.
I hoped I made them feel a little better by blaming their bladder. I lied of course, that was a seriously fucked up dream.
I spent the rest of the afternoon imaging the little fellows in the tubs. My personal little goblins. The ones I’d pee on.