Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, ed., Books and Culture. / New at patreon.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Animal Dreams

On Sunday night I felt chilled and heaped a comforter on the bed—an enormous billow of down. I finally got warm, snuggled against my husband and under that warm snowdrift. About three in the morning, N. woke up and came running into the room and hurled himself onto the bed. By the time he wriggled under the covers, I was quite warm and woke up enough to thrust the comforter lower on the bed.

Later I woke up sweating, with N. clamped around my neck. I'd been dreaming that a strange, ugly animal had gotten into the house. It had attacked our chocolate lab; her severed head was lying on the kitchen floor. It went on to kill Theodora, the calico, and Lady Azure. In keeping with her utter sweetness and lack of personality, the blue Persian was only a tiny handful of fluff and so was destroyed by a single bite. My children were standing around, all three looking younger and smaller and wholly vulnerable; I cornered the beast—it seemed to be some sort of wild dog—and forced it into the oven. My husband appeared and helped me at some point during the awful struggle. And then we held the glass door shut and turned the knob to “broil.”

All of that makes a kind of sense: the bed was an “oven”; mother dreams run easily enough to fears about the fragility of children. I leaped out of bed about 6:45, feeling sand-bagged but glad to be released from sleep, and started prodding my children to progress toward being clean and shiny for school.

As I was bending over my youngest, who was putting on his socks, he looked up at me and said, very slowly, “Is there another animal in the house?”

“No,” I said, the hairs at my nape prickling.

I changed the subject but came back to it in a few minutes. “Why did you think so?”

He didn’t have an answer, but I still retained a sense of the uncanny long afterward, and I jumped in surprise when I found Hanna-the-lab just behind the basement door. I didn't talk about the dream, because it bothered me. Yet it managed to linger. At dinner, when N. was trying to decide if a dozen was a lot or a little, R. told him that 12 bites from a wild dog would be a lot...

In the back yard, the gigantic limb-dropping ash tree tossed its limbs and threatened fall. The ice-flecked wind thrust itself against my children’s bodies, hurling their scarves in the air. Gleaming, the rows of fruit-filled canning jars in the pantry met my eye, saying I never met a bacterium and Eat Me. There’s always, always, always another animal in the house, waiting in the walls and slavering in anticipation of a coming day and biding the sweet, sweet time.

Photo credit: royalty free photograph,
"Blue night sky,"
by D. Carlton at sxc.hu/

7 comments:

  1. You're another mother with unspeakably scary thoughts and anxiety-deriving/producing dreams. Welcome to the club. Though my girls are in their early 20s, I still have those annihilating fears. Will they ever go away entirely? I don't think so.

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  2. Today I've been reading stories about animal-human marriages. Another facet of fear, transformed by a tale...

    Laura, I like all your interests except perfume--and that I like in imagination but can't handle in the flesh. My head wanders off like a hot air balloon.

    Send me a teeny note to my mailbox and tell me where you live? I have a guess (my last home: Carrboro, NC) that you're somewhere I know...

    I'm going to go look at your drawing for today!

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  3. Dear Mrs. Youmans,
    I am one of Ms. Connie L.'s students, and I recently finished reading your masterpiece, The Curse of the Ravenmocker. I was so excited to have uncovered such a wonderful mine of fine writing. For me, Ravenmocker is an undiscovered valley dominated by your smooth river of prose, which is undisturbed by the rapids of choppy writing. Perhaps, if you are ever in need of a story idea, you could place another book in Adantis wtih Mullygrubs (What a name!) as a character. I would love to have this tale continued!

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  4. Hi there, Miss Megan--

    I always like hearing from your teacher--or from any of her students! She was in a very special summer seminar, a highly memorable one. I don't teach except for one week a year, but that class was enough to make me want to keep it up.

    And I'm glad you liked the Mocker. I'll have to think about Mullygrubs... Poor thing, saddled with such a name. Probably I owe any child with that name an adventure!

    The Mocker and Ingledove (the "companion" book) will be out from Firebirds (Penguin) in paperback this year, so I hope they'll find some more friends like you when that happens. Thanks so much for popping to say 'hello' and to let me know that you liked the book.

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  5. Scary post, marly. My youngest woke me telling me something about wolves a couple nights back. Both my sons (but not my daughter)have had terrible fears of wolves. My eldest, when he was little, forbade us even to mention the word in his presence, because it was so powerful.
    I fear more the ravenings of human powers, myself.

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  6. And, having read the wise Megan's comments, I want to jump up and down and say "see, someone else thinks there should be more Adantis books!" Poor Marly--I predict that after Ravenmocker and Ingledove come out in paperback you will be flooded with demands for more.

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  7. My youngest has been afraid of ghosts for a long time; he refers to them by the initial "G." But the fear is starting to drift away... The town we live in is crammed with ghost stories.

    Yes, I agree.

    The human heart has strange corridors, and sometimes becomes a labyrinth with a Minotaur in its depths. And sometimes the streets of the world appear to be full of raging Minotaurs.

    Me, I just keep spinning my dreams, and sometimes they have angels and sometimes they have demons, and sometimes they have human faces...

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.