Dream Diary: “Foam Sale”

She had not believed me that a foam sale was a good idea. She said if we went forward with it, it was my job that would be on the line. I reassured her that with just one foam sale, we could get rid of every item in the store.

The customers were waiting outside the vast glass windows before we opened. They filed into the store, all eager for the foam sale. The shop floor was filled with wares of all kinds, but before the foam sale started nobody was interested in browsing.

Once hundreds of shoppers had gathered in the center of the store, I initiated the foam sale. An ominous rumble came from above, and a dark cloud gathered near the ceiling. With a buzzing sound, foam jet nozzles descended from out of the cloud. Once they locked into place, they began pouring foam onto the crowd.

The foam quickly filled the store. It was snowy white, and of such a consistency that you could either sit atop it or dive into it. It was moist but it didn’t soak you. It was lovely stuff, and as the entire store turned to foam, people became ecstatic. Their joy triggered their desire to consume, and suddenly they entered a buying frenzy. They went in and out of the foam, retrieving and purchasing the products that had been buried by it. It was pandemonium.

As the last foam dissipated, we realized just how well the foam sale had gone. There were no items on the shop floor left larger than a sequin, besides a pipe cleaner here and there.

“And this we can sweep up easily,” I said to her, to show that even the debris was manageable.

Little pockets of foam remained here and there but they were rapidly diminishing.

She admitted that I had been right, that the foam sale had been a good idea.

Dream Diary: “Astral Parents”

We stood outdoors politely clapping at the fundraiser, in which a boy with Down’s Syndrome was roller-skating for the first time. He roller-skated like a professional. It was as if he didn’t have Down’s syndrome at all.

As the fundraiser finished, I talked to the boy, who was about 21, in sideburns and baseball cap.

“But ‘Ryan Cooper,’ surely that’s not an Israeli name, is it?” I asked.

He gave me a sort of wink. “Add ‘Ben Hur’ between Ryan and Cooper. That’s my real name.”

“But your parents, they were Israelis? They didn’t come from America or Britain?”

“You mean my astral parents?” He never said ‘birth’ parents. He always said ‘astral.’


“I don’t talk to them.” He turned to his girlfriend, who had emerged. “Katie, how many days of quality time would you say I get with my parents each year?”

She laughed. “Oh, two.”

That night he and I both died in our sleep.


Dream Diary: “Gas Station Lawyer”

She was skeptical, but I reassured her that I was a lawyer and could take care of it for her. I didn’t tell her that I had never taken a case before. Or that I hadn’t passed the bar exam yet.

“I’m going to get you $3,000,” I said.“But first, hand me $3,000.” She did.

I got out of the car and began to argue with him.

“Do you know that you owe this woman $3,000 for car repairs? I have it right here!” I brandished the $3,000.

“Do you have an invoice for that?” he replied, instantly destroying my argument.

I poked my head back into the car. “Do you have an invoice?” I asked her nervously, knowing she didn’t. She shook her head and looked worried.

I withdrew my head and turned back to the man. “We don’t,” I said.

As I got back into the car I had to reveal to her that not only had I not gotten paid, but I had given him her $3,000. The humiliation was infinite.


Dream Diary: “The Pileup”

Outside, under the floodlights, I mistook a massive St. Bernard playing frisbee for a guard dog. I returned indoors to warn Paul, but he was busy unionizing the janitors.

I was offered a ride home by an unidentified ex-girlfriend. She couldn’t see out of her windscreen.

“How do you know you’re not going to end up in the pileup?”

“I don’t really.”

We ended up in the pileup.

Dream Diary: “The Boris Johnson Library”

The Boris Johnson Library was located in one room of a tiny shotgun house, one street over from my own. When I found it, the doors to both the house and the library were unlocked, and I went inside and looked around. There was nobody around.

I found what I was looking for: a hardcover copy of A Bit of Fry & Laurie & Johnson. The library was a lending library, but with nobody present I took the book and made a note to return and find the librarian to officially check it out.

I continued wandering the streets of New Orleans, looking for further information about Boris Johnson. Two days later, Russell Brand found me and helped me out. He gave a humorous monologue about the idea of American presidential libraries.

“I mean, can you imagine if we English did that? If Boris Johnson got 15 million dollars to build a Boris Johnson Center? In the shape of his hair?”

Brand was currently the host of This is the World with Russell Brand (aka This is It). He took me into a shotgun house two doors down from the Library and introduced me to a young blonde boy who had just come from working in Johnson’s office after graduating from Yale.

“I don’t know much about him,” the boy said of Johnson, “but this was his favorite polo.” He went into a back room and came out bearing a necklace with a polo mint on it. The mint had been painted with red bits to look like a life preserver.

He let me wear it. I didn’t ask how this boy had come to obtain Johnson’s polo.

Out of the window, I saw police cars two doors down at the Library.

“Looks like you’d better return that book,” Brand joked. I laughed but became nervous. I walked quickly over, past the two cops, Sam Hankson and Andy Pankington.

Inside, the librarian, a Yale professor, was sitting filling out forms. I presented him with the dust jacket of A Bit of Fry & Laurie & Johnson. He looked cross.

“I’m sorry, that book is unavailable at the moment. It has been stolen.”

“No, I have it. I got it two days ago, I came in but there was nobody here.”

His face darkened.

“Burglary is a serious offense. How did you get in here?” He pointed to the windows. “Did you break these?” They were not broken.

I told him the doors had been open. He did not believe me. He wrote it down. I saw that on his desk was a photo “Suspect” that showed a sketch of a black man.

As the carriage passed through New Haven, the librarian explained to me that he was taking a hard line on me, because his experience with students had made him cynical. “I’m going to make an example of you. The chicks, these undergrads, as soon as you mention you’re not pressing charges, they totally tune out.” He was consistently sexist. “You tell them you’re not pressing charges but you expect them to repay you. They just hear that as they’re free.”

He told me that there was one way he would grant me leniency, which was to attend his upcoming “Holoish fundraiser.” “It’s $100 per person. It’s for Holocaust awareness. You must bring a guest, and they must also pay $100.” I politely declined.

My parents came up beside the carriage. They tried to make conversation with the professor about the new house. It was clear this was not helping. I gave them a signal to cut it out. They did not cut it out.

* * * *

I surveyed Obama’s America. I thought about how it would look generations hence. I imagined a little black girl writing a letter to her great-great grandfather. I saw cornfields.

I’d put all of this in my college application essay.


Dream Diary: “The Golan Heights”

The film’s protagonist was accused of a crime, and the entire story was about whether or not he had committed it. But at the end, with that question left unresolved, we find out that throughout the entire film he has been embezzling money before our eyes, and that if we had looked closely we would have caught him committing hundreds more crimes.

* * * *

When we retook the Golan Heights, the lack of resistance was eerie. Everyone there had fled, and we were able to immediately start assigning people to the empty houses. After some time wandering round, I struggled to pack my backpack quickly. I needed to get out of there. The quiet was destined to end and I sensed a huge military response impending. A dark patch began growing on my forearm and I began frantically (and semi-successfully) trying to wipe it off.

Back in Cambridge, I rode with Alan Dershowitz in his Range Rover. As he pulled into the underground faculty parking garage, I asked him whether I had been right that retaliation was forthcoming.

“Yes,” he said, “they’ll get it back.”

I felt sick to my stomach at having asked him such an uncritical question.

Dream Diary: “Four Flashes”

I did not know that the girl who had died had been an extremely successful podcaster. I looked through her possessions and was mesmerized by the sheer range of her production. The podcast was adapted for mugs, posters, and, most impressively, two leather-bound volumes containing the entire transcripts of the series.

* * * *

I couldn’t find a cup of coffee anywhere in Galveston. Now that the city had been purchased by Disney, every cafe just had a picture of Goofy on it and served amusingly-named milkshakes for kids.

* * * *

I had been put in charge of making sure Chuck Berry hit all the right notes. I did not know how to play the guitar, so this worried me. But as my hands gripped Chuck’s and I let him take control, by halfway through “Reelin’ and Rockin’” I looked at the audience and knew we would pull it off.

* * * *

I had fired a lot of rockets into the vast modern glass house. They waited until later to tell me that Eisenhower had probably died, but I knew it already; in the distance I had seen his limp body lying at the foot of one of the glass elevator shafts.

Dream Diary: “Manatee Jail”

The Orleans Parish Sheriff had lost 16 manatees from its jails. As we walked around the building’s corridors, I explained to the sheriff that this was totally unacceptable.

“The building is beautiful. It’s historic. A classic Southern brick structure. But what goes on in here is very ugly indeed…”

The sheriff was apologetic. I remained unaffected, and went on.

“Manatees are very slow. It doesn’t speak very well of your officers that they can’t catch them, does it?”

The sheriff hung her head.

“And on top of that, these are mentally ill manatees, capable of who-knows-what!” I paused. “I really don’t think we can stop this unless we double your budget.”

The sheriff perked up and nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, we do need more money, that’s very true.”