Theoretical possibilities inhabit one part of the brain; emotional responses to reality occupy another. Dealing rationally with theoretical possibilities tends to impose less stress on a person than does coping with emotions, which can overwhelm logic. But when theory and feelings collide, a person’s innate temperament often takes control. The problem with “knowing” so little about so much is that it is nearly impossible to predict which of countless variables will intervene and how they will influence the way a person reacts to reality. A map of the United States is interesting and informative, but unless it is a road map, it is essentially useless in planning a drive from coast to coast.


A nonsense phrase came to mind this morning: clandestine amnesia. This was not the first time a grammatically correct but utterly absurd term popped into my head. Meaning is not entirely a function of either grammar or vocabulary. The two must complement one another in ways that make sense. There must be millions of ways in which an adjective can modify a noun, yielding only gibberish. Superficial clock. Drunken catamaran. Elderly babies Rabid Chevrolet. Slovenly popcorn. My question, of course, is “why?”


In my dream, I was in a long line in front of a posh hotel, waiting for my valet-parked rented Porsche to be brought to me. The scene was chaotic; hundreds of people in line, cars zooming toward waiting drivers, crowds milling about and blocking the hotel’s doors, and valets smoking cigarettes and leaning against the glass of the front of the hotel. I was in a city that was unfamiliar to me and I did not know where I needed to go; only that I already was late. There was more to the dream, of course, but I do not remember it. Damn!


Imagine looking toward the horizon in every direction and seeing a perfectly smooth sheet of shiny black obsidian as far as the eye can see. The vista is identical in every direction except directly in front of you where, about a hundred yards away, a solid white goat struggles to get to its feet. Suddenly, you realize this is someone else’s dream and that terrifies you. As you turn to run, you feel a sharp pain on the side of your neck. You hear the metallic sound of a scalpel hitting the obsidian beneath you. And you see blood on the ground. This is not how it was supposed to be, you say to yourself. As you begin to lose consciousness, you hear someone say “Happy Father’s Day, Gregory.” But I’m not Gregory, you think… 


I much prefer to write realistic fiction. On occasion, though, I try something else. And I rediscover the reason for my preference.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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