A great darkness had fallen over the city of Lincoln, placing all power in the hands of a very few, making it so we could not get jobs and were persecuted for not conforming.
A group of us went to a big trailer in the Near South neighborhood that had been converted into a church, where a rock band was playing. It was a concert especially for women. They were so joyful to have a place to gather, where they could have fun and not be punished. Women of all ages, cultures, and ethnicities were there, talking, laughing, and dancing among the wooden pews, despite the fact that the band kind of sucked. I hoped they wouldn’t be caught.
I left and headed west, out past Highway 77, to the bar and grill that used to be The Prospector. I went inside and here was the recurring dream theme of a dark bar with elevated circular booths and a round, pyramid food bar in the main room.
I sat in a booth with four men who looked like Tony, Paulie, Silvio, and Big Pussy from The Sopranos. My husband was supposed to come join us. We drank for a long time and got really hungry, but the kitchen had closed. So we went out into the dark and followed a narrow, brick sidewalk around back, where there was a food shack. A guy with long, scruffy blond hair was serving up several kinds of homemade stew. Ravenous, I devoured a bowl of meatball stew that looked like lamb korma.
The guy behind the counter started chatting with me and I said, “Do I know you?” He grinned and said something about the “Freddies” or “Frankies” or something like that. I realized that was the name of the band I’d seen earlier, and he was a member.
It was after bar close. What had happened to my husband?
Suddenly, it was a sunny afternoon and I was in the house where I grew up (which is slowly falling in on itself), searching for something. In the living room/bedroom were some new DVDs I’d ordered, and I kept trying to fasten them to the soles of my shoes. I finally gave up and pushed them under the bed. From beyond the doorway, a timer went off. I crept over the threshold into the dank, collapsing kitchen and saw only a wall of dirty porcelain behind the rusted stove—nothing that could have made the noise.
Feeling a sudden chill, I backed into the other room again. Suddenly, a large, rumpled, peach-colored cat leaped onto one of the moldering beds. It was mangy and smelled of mold, like Church in Pet Sematary. It was time to get the hell out. I rushed through the kitchen to the front door, and just as I reached it, the cat appeared behind me. What was left of its fur was now a sick yellow, patches of desiccated skin stretched tight over knobs of bone.
Whatever this house concealed, it was something more than a cat. I wrenched open the door and leaped outside. In the very same moment, a gray and white cat, this one alive and quite healthy, came bounding up from the overgrown yard. The two cats ran toward the narrowing doorway, the dead cat inside the dead house, the live one curious to go in. I slammed the door in their faces and ran down the brick walk, which became the narrow sidewalk again, between the bar and the shack. Blackest night had fallen once more.
I had to find my husband. I thought maybe I should go look in the old duplex where we used to live, south of the Regional Center. It was close by, and if he was drunk, maybe he’d wandered up there by instinct. Then I remembered that had been my ex-husband. My real husband, Todd, would not know about that house.
Coming up the walk were the four mobsters I’d drunk with earlier. Together, we turned up the road on foot, crossing Highway 77 and heading east on Van Dorn. The air was still, damp, and cold, and the horizon was now a faint gray. I took out an old cell phone to try to call Todd. I kept pressing “K” on the keypad, once again getting husbands’ names mixed up. Then I pressed the Talk button, because for some reason that was how you called the Lincoln Police Department. Maybe they could help me find Todd.
The phone rang briefly. Then, a recording played—the crusty, wheezing voice of an old woman: “Yeh’ve reached the shirriff’s office. Be advised all work is performed via contrack.”
As I snapped the phone shut, a high, whistling bird’s cry pierced the gloom.