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image by Michelle Schaffer

I dreamed I was sitting on a multi-coloured, striped canvas lounge chair in the middle of a gravel parking lot, in sight of a cheap corndog stand. The circus, the fun place, is behind me to my right, but I’m not going there. I am merely lounging, feeling quite dutiful in this nowhere/neither place, feeling grateful—or trying to—for the pretty coloured stripes beneath me and at my back.

Two acquaintances come along, nice guys that I know from my neighbourhood, on their way to the circus. They look surprised to see me. “What are you doing here?” one of them asks.

I look around at my gravelly surroundings. “Damned if I know,” I say, and wake up.

Now if the dream had continued, I would have replied, “I’m a lady-in-waiting.”

“To whom?” one of the guys would have asked.

“The dull prince,” I say with conviction.

“Why?”

“Because he fancies himself universally appealing.”

“What’s that got to do with you?”

“Well, it’s not true, you see—he isn’t, but someone has to help him keep up the pretense.”

“Why?”

In the dream that might have carried on, I become confused. I glance around again at my colourless, rocky surroundings and remind myself that at least my butt is parked on something pretty. My friends take pity and clarify their question.

“Why are you his lady-in-waiting?”

At this, I brighten. “Oh, because I have been trained to wait, and I am very, very good at it.”

“Yes, we can see that.”

I notice somehow that my friends have taken on the names Frank and Earnest, which they do not have in real life. An Oscar Wilde-type joke, haha!

“Waiting on the Lord, that sort of thing?” Frank suggests earnestly.

“Yes, yes, waiting on the lord! He might need me.” I conjure twinkly eyes and two bright red spots appear on my cheeks. I feel like those people in the audience at The Hunger Games.

Earnest looks around. “So where is he?”

“Who?”

“Your dull prince.”

I don’t know, I think. That’s not right. I know exactly where he is. He’s over at the corndog stand, which only pretends to sell corndogs—I can’t remember why, but I do know that if word gets out of the real activities of the dull prince . . .

Frank and Earnest wait while I work through my options of what might happen if word got out about the dull prince. When I reach the option that probably showed in my eyes, Frank says, “Would you like us to come with you?”

“Yes, please,” I reply, not because I’m afraid but because I want them to see what I’m about to see.

I get up off the stupid striped chair fit only for waiting ladies and accompany them to the corndog stand. No one is staffing the counter, but behind the flashing lights and digital LED displays of non-nutritious, highly processed wienies dipped in hornymeal . . . horny meal? Oh, that’s right, it’s a horndog stand! How could I have forgotten?

So, yeah, behind the glitter, sits the prince who fancies himself universally appealing, crosslegged and surrounded by . . . how shall I put this . . . coiled entities who’ve forgotten their identities. There are heaps of them—pulsing, writing, vaguely erotic in a $5.00 per trick streetwalker sort of way—and there he is in the midst of them, taking each coiled being, one at a time, tenderly onto his lap.

Using empty words and promises, he persuades their mouths open to reveal fangs that had once acted as conduits to their life force, to the belief in beauty, worth, intelligence. Frank, Earnest and I watch while the prince, whose life of excess and self-indulgence has dulled and emptied him of all except the belief in his universal appeal, squeezes the cheeks of the being on his lap.

Sweet venom milk pours out, which, of course, the prince laps and laps, and which would feel to the one being drained like affection—I should know—until the secretions deplete, at which point, he throws the creature aside and reaches for another.

“Bloody hell!” I exclaim, in both my waking and dream states.

Frank chuckles. Earnest offers his arm. “Not your prince?”

“Not in the least!” I take his arm and steer my two friends firmly toward the southeast, mere steps away. I can’t even see the stupid chair. “Our circus awaits, gentlemen.”

~~~

© Elaine Stirling

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