Al 050823 AGE APPROPRIATE - Laura Marshal

When she woke with a strange dream stuck in her head Dina Louise frowned.  Daddy & Mommy had gone away for a few days and it wasn’t easy living at Grandma Jane’s house with a lot of grownups that should have left home years ago and hadn’t, except for her dad who was the youngest. Mama whispered how their objections to this departure was ridiculous but quietly so only Dina Louise could hear her.

After going over all the details of her dream she decided to find someone to tell her what it meant like her daddy always did so he could practice his psychiatry. There was no one at breakfast yet except Uncle Todd, who always wore a green hat even to bed. He was secretly losing his hair. “Uncle Todd,” she asked, “What does it mean that I had a dream about a girl with red hair who lived in water and if she fed little fish to a big fish then a little girl would come out of the big fish’s mouth.”

    “It means that somewhere there is a higher plane of existence in which all ideal fishes and perfect girls are found and what we experience here is but a poor reflection of those ideals,” Uncle Todd explained and then took another bite of cereal, all without looking up from the papers he was grading.

     “Thanks. I guess.”  Dina Louise muttered and went out on the porch where her Uncle Donald lived. He was a preacher every seventh day and rested in his hammock the other six. “Uncle Donald,” she started to ask, “What does it mean that I had a dream about a girl . . . ?” He interrupted, “Don’t listen to that nonsense Todd spouts. Your dream means God created humans, and only humans, in his own image and every other creature on the earth or in the sea strives to achieve our same perfection. Dina Louise looked at her knobby feet that been chosen ugliest by her kindergarten class and she knew for sure Donald wasn’t right.

     She slipped away to ask Uncle Samson who was in the hall, “What does it mean that I dreamed a girl who lived in the water and if she fed a fish then a little girl would come out of the fish’s mouth?” Uncle Samson just looked at her out of the corner of his eye which reminded her very much of that fish. “Fed fish to the fishes and got little girls? Hum. It must have something to do with the reproductive cycle of mermaids. Half-fish. Half-girl.”

     “No! Not half!” she complained just when Uncle Leroy popped out of his room and though still tying his tie and putting on his shoes he shouted, “That’s ridiculous! What evolutionary advantage would be achieved by cycling from fish to girl to fish. It’s far too complicated to keep up for long without falling prey to predators.”

     Grandma Jane shooed them all out of the hall while she proclaimed that Dina Louise’s dream was a fairy tale about a princess who was trying to free a prince who’d been imprisoned inside a fish by an evil sorcerer.

     Andy, who was already late for his shift, grabbed a piece of toast and winked, “An evil sorcerer? Is he one of the mob? Come down to the station, Dina Louise. We’ll scan the mug books and maybe you’ll spot him.”

     Then Gee-Bees, her only aunt, slammed the door behind him before she looked squarely at Dina Louise and said, “This is ridiculous. You know perfectly well that what your dream means is that your mother went to the hospital to have a new baby.”

     Everyone shouted, “NO!”  Dina Louise shouted loudest of all, “Jezz, Gee-Bees, Mama said no one was supposed to tell me!”

     “My point exactly!! Are you going to tell her I told?” asked Aunt Gee-Bees with a silly grin.

     “No way!” replied Dina Louise is her most serious voice. “Mama isn’t old enough to know yet.”


Nightway II: Angel” painted by Laura Marshal in 1993
in collection of Bruce Markel