In dreams

by laurel

Notes: The idea for the story was a vague one but I was inspired to write it after seeing the movie "girl with a pearl earring" which is a painting in itself and further helped by the book "the twentieth century art book", which is where the Klee line came from.

Part of the foursome universe. Follows: A Christmas wish, a new love, that's what friends are for, Popsicle toes, twister, tangled up in blue, the list, the jazz singer, debut, meet the neighbors, war games, the art of seduction, summer's end, what are you doing New Year's Eve? and ruminations.

Dr Hugo kindly permitted me to use the poem "In dreams". I thought it was perfect for this piece. Check out the cool website where you'll find it:

In dreams there is a mind shore,
In dreams there is a liquid meaning,
In dreams there is a perfumed past.

In dreams we are real close,
to who we are, what we want,
and what we see with closed eyes.

In dreams, the future never sleeps...

The juice made a wide, orange stain on the pristine white cloth. The cloth was so thick the tangerine, glistening spot hovered on top of it for a few seconds before sinking into the cotton table cloth.

"Shit," Alex cursed. He hadn't even noticed the spill over the side of the glass. His sleep clumsy fingers nearly knocked over the big containers they used for cereal. It was Honey Nut Cheerios for him, Raisin Bran for Walter (they always teased him that the cereal combined with the plump raisins made him very regular in the bathroom so constipation certainly wasn't the answer to his habitual grumpiness), Rice Krispies for John and a rotating mix of chocolate coated, multi-colored and marshmallow or gummi-bear encrusted sugary treats for Fox.

John smiled patiently and steadied the containers as they threatened to topple over.

"Sorry," Alex apologized.

"That's okay. You still asleep honey?"

John had taken to calling them all honey lately, an affectionate term he'd picked up from his aunt Bea on his last visit home. It was a charming, sweet endearment, sounding quite odd in his mix of harsh New York City accent mixed with the molasses sweet tone of his native southern roots. His long vacation back home had awoken the accent deeply.

"Didn't sleep good," Alex muttered.

John poured the cereal for him.


He poured the milk too. Alex gave him a wan smile.

Walter frowned, concerned about the dark rings beneath Alex's eyes.

Fox gave Alex a kiss on the cheek as he came into the kitchen and poured out a bowl of Count Chocula cereal, topping it off with the last of the Froot Loops. He kissed John as he reached for the carton of milk.

John made a face at the unpalatable breakfast.

"What's the matter?" John asked, turning back to Alex.

Alex shrugged and finished his juice first, gulping down the multiple vitamins Walter made them all take.

Walter kissed Fox as his lover poked his head in the fridge.

"What's wrong?" He looked around the kitchen. He'd brushed his teeth already so morning mouth wasn't the irritant.

"Bad dreams," Alex replied softly.

Fox nodded in agreement. "I got the bruises on my legs to prove it. Lots of thrashing last night and not the good kind." He emerged with cream cheese.

"What sort of dreams?" Walter asked. He set down a bowl of cereal, his coffee and a cup of plain yogurt topped with blueberries and granola at his place setting.

"All sorts," Alex said vaguely and dug into his breakfast. He nodded at Fox as he passed him a freshly toasted bagel smothered in plain cream cheese and grape jelly. Alex remained silent on the subject, his eyes downcast to avoid their eyes. If it worked in the classroom so the teacher wouldn't call on him, it damn well better work in the house too.

"I had some weird dreams," Fox volunteered.

"It's probably the result of the weird shit you eat," John complained with a good-natured grin. He picked up half of his bagel (his one consensus to boldness was pine-apple flavored cream cheese).

"I had one where these gray-skinned aliens were smoking cigarettes and I kept telling them to put them out because there was a no-smoking by-law but they wouldn't listen to me."

"Sounds like Spender in a Halloween outfit," Alex joked.

"You were trying to enforce a by-law? That's one for the books," Walter smirked.

"Then I was in a tunnel but I couldn't find my way out of it."

"Sex dream," John confirmed with a wink.

Alex nodded. "He's not getting enough. Poor baby," he crooned and slid his fingers through Fox's still uncombed hair.

Walter claimed he didn't dream. Everyone told him that was the reason he was grumpy. John had a dream about Monica and they were investigating a case of a missing shoe. That one had them stumped.

After breakfast they retreated to their own individual pursuits: Walter to check the accounting books for their business, John to look at some files on a runaway teen whose frantic parents had hired them to look for her, Fox to wrestle with writer's block and Alex wandered into the library to browse the eclectic collection they had accumulated.

He ended up with an art book, a huge volume containing masterpieces from the fifteenth through to the twentieth centuries. It was filled with stiff portraits of wealthy merchants and royalty, peasant farmers wearing wide-brimmed hats toiling in the earth, unknown models splayed nude on sofas, demons and saints and numerous Madonnas and ended with bright red soup cans and abstracts that resembled blood spatters from a homicide.

He studied the book intently, gazing at the pictures until his eyes nearly hurt with the effort.

The cracked, glazed paintings of fair blushing maidens with luminous eyes, pouting children in their best dresses and bouncing curls, horses and farmers, angry seas and blooming gardens danced in front of him.

On some of the paintings the paint was so thick it looked as if it would drip off the page. Jewels around ladies' necks winked in the light of what had probably been dim studios. Degas dancers nearly winced at the unbearable pain in their feet, but managed to look graceful and unattainable nevertheless. Picasso's pictures were by turns gloomy and violent, Van Gogh was a case study for depression and mania, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel was awe-inspiring and as God's finger reached out to touch Adam, he could see the strain of muscles and tendons there, Pollock's sprays of paint on a huge scale were placed next to comic book-like Lichtensteins and Da Vinci's Mona Lisa smiled at him as if she knew his secret and was wondering what price he'd pay to keep her quiet.

Alex sighed and closed his eyes, leaning back in the leather chair. Spots of paint danced before his eyes like a pointillist painting. He fell asleep, dreaming of ballet dancers in luminous starched dresses gliding across the shining hardwood floors and men in thick black sable coats hurrying through the blotches of thick white snow as they raced to their lacquered carriages, salacious, painted whores that drank cheap liquor and wore diseased flesh and little else in the saloons, melting watches and wounded horses, blue stark figures and women with mismatched features that loomed over the bridges where the water lapped pink lilies.

Walter watched from the doorway as Alex sighed and struggled even as he slept.

Alex's dreams turned muddy, violent, harsh. He entered the strange dark forests of Henri Rousseau and passed the screaming figure of Edvard Munch's nightmare, which magnified his own agitation so much that he moaned.

Walter entered the library quietly so he wouldn't spook him.

Alex looked down at his watch, trying to run faster but his legs were jelly and wouldn't you know it, his watch was melting.

Walter stroked Alex's cheek soothingly, but gently so as not to wake him. He bit his lip. Should he wake him? God knows the boy needed some sleep, but at what price?

Then he was in some strange building. It was something like Klee would draw. The artist had called it "taking a line for a walk". Alex smiled in his sleep. He followed the simple line drawing until he was entering strange hallways that had abrupt endings. Damn that Escher.

Walter took the huge book off his lap. The thing weighed a ton. Then he closed the blinds and took Alex's restless hands in his own, stroking them softly, both the real one and the fake.

Alex was trying to get out of the forest, but Chagall's flying people got in the way. He had to tame one of Picasso's horses to get him out. As he galloped away he saw Frida Kahlo pass him. She was carrying a bouquet of white camellias and silver branches that flickered in the brief light. She nodded and held a branch out to him. The girl really needed a pair of tweezers.

Walter put a CD in the stereo. Dvorak's symphony number nine in E minor trilled out from the state of the art speakers. He was one of Alex's favorite composers.

Alex made the horse run faster, boots smacking against the heaving, panting animal's side. He passed the golden, dark figure of a Klimt painting and slapped the horse with the silver branch, urging him on faster as he passed a row of Goya's dark demons. He finally emerged into a sunlit field filled with waving golden sunflowers. He dove into a clear sparkling pool in the California sunshine, hoping David Hockney didn't mind the intrusion and emerged wet and refreshed. The horse neighed and retreated back into the dense emerald green forest.

Walter startled when Alex woke. Alex shook his head. "I had the weirdest dreams."

Walter stroked his cheekbone. "What did you dream about last night?"

Alex gazed down at the floor. Walter tilted his head back up. Dvorak's Adagio was punctuating the air. "You left me. You didn't want me anymore," he said quietly.

Walter gathered him in his arms. "Don't ever think that. We could never leave you Alex. Never. Do you understand? We love you and you're part of our family now."

Alex sniffled back tears. "You're sure?"

"Absolutely. You're stuck with us, boy," he said gruffly. Tears touched the back of Alex's neck. Alex rubbed Walter's mostly bald head affectionately. "Guess I'm stuck with you too."

"Don't ever forget that."

They hugged for a while longer and dried their tears on each other's skin.

"Let's have a look at that book you were reading before."

They sat close together on the matching leather sofa and Alex was careful to look at only the pretty pictures: the soft blooms of Redon, the stylistic art nouveau, impressionist sunsets, and the proudly nude statue of David.

He snuggled into Walter's arms. His eyes were so tired he couldn't keep them open. Walter hefted the book to the side table, hoping the thing wouldn't collapse under the weight of the book. He stroked Alex's short silky hair until he fell asleep and listened contentedly to the sounds of his breathing.

Alex emerged from the shallow pond with seaweed and lily pads crowning his hair. The sun danced on the water, dazzling his eyes. Nearly naked nymphs resting against the rocks nearby giggled at him and threw giant suggestive looking flowers at him. He caught one in his hand and looked at it in amazement as the velvet petals opened up, inviting him in. The sensuous deep purple petunias were so suggestive, they should have been illegal. That Georgia O'keefe was something.

Yeah, that had to be a sex dream, Walter thought, as he looked down at Alex's smiling face.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to laurel