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Unread 05-19-2024, 11:10 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Salzburg


One night while in rehab I had a dream that I worked as a violin maker in Salzburg. It was the late eighteenth century in my dream but there was no mention of Mozart or any other composer or music. The most interesting thing about the dream was there was nothing dream-like about it. I had one daughter. A son had died the year before and I could still see his face if I stopped pegging a new hole or trimming the bass bar and closed my eyes. I had spent most of the day of the dream talking with other rehab clients sitting in the day room or while walking on the pleasant trail that skirted the patch of woods between the rehab and the interstate highway. By the end of our stay we would know one another more thoroughly and with more love than we knew ourselves. There was a doctor of the throat who had sung bel canto but could no longer sing, a counter of the coins who could no longer bring himself to touch money, a mother who failed to master the thimble and said her children were tiny shells she should have left on the beach. Before turning to sleep on my single bed I'd realized I wanted to press my lips against each of their mouths and suck out the chaos leaping for the light in their exhausted bodies. I would let it frolic in my bloated stomach and hang like a bloody shirt over my brain. Perhaps this is why in my dream there was little new death, which was unrealistic because it was the eighteenth century when death was the landlord of the cobble-stoned streets. As I walked to my appointment with the Kapellmeister to demonstrate my newest instrument made from the cherry wood that was so dear I saw a young girl with a flushed face. Death had invested in her eyes but that was the only sighting. I walked on inhaling chimney smoke although it was spring and burning the wood was wasteful. I should have been thinking of my appointment, my income depended on a good outcome, but mostly I thought of my daughter who would soon marry a dull shopkeeper. I wondered how she would live without music. She was a happy girl whose face, unlike my son's, never creased with worry about the ambitions she'd never fulfill. The dream ended as I sat in a tiny room waiting for the Kapllemeister to come bow the strings made from polished sheep gut. I remember thinking I had been kept waiting too long. That a proud man would stand up and make his presence known. I had no impatience, though, and now wish I had. But how was I to know the night nurse was standing outside my bedroom door? That the sleep that made such life possible was about to be no more?
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Unread 05-20-2024, 11:13 AM
Glenn Wright Glenn Wright is offline
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Hi, John

This is a very evocative piece. Here are some of my thoughts:

1. The narrator refers to being in “rehab,” but the nature of his fellow inmates’ problems and his own desire to “press [his] lips against each of their mouths and suck out the chaos, . . .[letting] it frolic in [his] bloated stomach and hang like a bloody shirt over [his] brain” suggests a mental institution or prison for the criminally insane as a likelier setting. If he had said “necks” instead of “mouths,” I would have concluded that he was a vampire. He sees his dead son’s face when he pauses and closes his eyes while working wood with sharp objects. Did he kill his son with one of his woodworking tools? At the end, does his desire for impatience mean that he wants to do violence to the night nurse? I wanted a bit more of a connection between the elements in the narrator’s dream and the undisclosed facts of his life. How does his dream reveal keys to unlocking his psyche and parallel his character.

2. To whom is the narrator speaking? Some possibilities are a journal/diary, a therapist, or a victim. Could you frame the narrative by giving the speaker a reason to tell about his dream and an imagined audience? My preference would be to present it in epistolary style as a journal entry he was required to write for a therapist.

3. The jumps between 18th century dream and present reality could be signposted by paragraphing. You might begin a new paragraph with, “I had spent most of the day of the dream. . .” You might begin a third paragraph with, “Perhaps this is why in my dream there was little new death. . .” You might begin a fourth paragraph with, “But how was I to know the night nurse was standing. . .”

4. The mother who “failed to master the thimble” seems anachronistic since she is in rehab in the present with the speaker. Poor needlework might have been a problem for a woman in the 18th century, but hardly for a modern woman. (The bit with her children being tiny shells who should have been left on the beach was brilliant. Did she have a collection of other people’s children that she found? Or is she in the institution for killing her children and leaving their pretty “shells?”)

5. “Death had invested in her eyes” is a bit off. Do you mean “Death suffused her eyes” or “Death would soon take up residence in her eyes?”

Thought-provoking scenario with decidedly creepy undertones. Nice work.

Last edited by Glenn Wright; 05-20-2024 at 11:29 AM.
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Unread 05-20-2024, 07:21 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Glenn, I'll have to come back to address all of your comments. But I have to say it's amusing, not in a nasty way, that it seems more like a prison for the mentally insane than a rehab. I've been in rehabs and worked at one for a while and I will say there are always some pretty crazy people there but they're not criminally insane. Most of them are good people who ended up addicted. There is no one reason. I, for example, was set up genetically from the get-go. I'm from a long line of what Ginsberg said at Kerouac's funeral--"The last of the great Christian drinkers." My dad and his dad both died at 52 from alcoholism. I only knew one or two men growing up who weren't alcoholics. It's not an excuse, but it only took me a week or so after my first drink to start drinking in the morning. I won't mention the drugs.

Anyway, I suppose your experience with rehabs and jails and institutions is not personal and as close as mine. Trust me, the conversations you have in a rehab facility are often strange. I did feel a weird, not healthy, attachment to some people and dreamed of solving their problems. It was a way to ignore mine. But we're not mentally ill criminals. We got lost.

Thanks for the help. I'll be back soon to read it and respond.
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