Getting Sorted -2- Memory of a Dream

Getting Sorted

Chapter 2 - Memory of a Dream

by Erin Halfelven

Ricky lay on the bed wearing nothing but his boxer undershorts, waiting for Ceecee to finish in the bathroom. He had pulled the covers up to his waist but no further.

He wanted to dissuade her from paying for her ride in her chosen manner but then again, he'd never had a blow job and he had heard they were excellent.

He wasn't a virgin. One trip to a brothel and a few drunken college parties had relieved him of that burden. Still, for a good-looking man in his early twenties, he was peculiarly under-experienced. And he knew it, though he suspected that a lot of the experiences he had heard other men brag about were exaggerated far beyond reality.

He knew for a fact that you couldn't get all nine members of the Swedish bikini team into a hotel room in Dubuque because there was no such thing as a Swedish bikini team, despite the existence of pictures that seemed to prove the contrary. Beer commercials had to be the lowest form of journalistic accuracy.

What the heck was she doing in the bathroom, anyway, he wondered. Wouldn't she want to brush her teeth afterward? He blushed.

Maybe when she came out he should just pretend to be asleep and avoid the whole subject?

What did it taste like? He imagined that a penis must taste the way urine smelled. Why would anyone willingly put it in their mouth? And the sticky white stuff that came out during sex looked, smelled and even felt unpleasant. He'd watched a porno movie once and the guy had cum all over the girl's face. Why would she let him do that?

Well, besides getting paid to make a movie.

It just looked disgusting. And evidently guys were supposed to get turned on by that. Was something wrong with him?

He sighed. Well, yes. Something was wrong with him. He could never tell what girls wanted and he didn't have the confidence to just assume that they wanted what he wanted. Like other guys seemed to assume.

He wished Ceecee had never made the offer to provide oral sex in exchange for a ride. He couldn't feel right about accepting and turning her down felt wrong too. It meant he couldn't really hope that they would just get to know each other and learn to like one another and just naturally go to bed for the usual reasons.


Something else occurred to him. She'd been wearing the remains of a wedding gown when he found her, or she found him -- he'd been the one who was lost. That meant, and she confirmed, that she had just gotten married and had a husband somewhere.

Everything in Ricky's upbringing told him that it would just be wrong to take advantage of her, her willingness to pay for a ride with sexual services not withstanding. And in fact, that made it worse.

He reached down and pulled the covers up to his chest, having determined that pretending to be asleep was the best choice of action, just as Ceecee opened the bathroom door.

She had on the cheap, orange, polyester nightie she had picked out at WalMart. While she wasn't a tall woman, it seemed awfully short on her, barely covering her -- crotch area. It had ruffles and lace in a tawdry salmon color and with the light from the bathroom behind her, he could see her shape through the fabric.

She looked at him and grinned. "Isn't this place great? It's so creepy. There are daddy longlegs spiders under the sink. I named them."

"Uh--what? You--what? Uh? What did you name them?" He hated spiders.

She reached back into the bathroom to tug the light pull off. Moving like that silhouetted her breasts in the light. She must be naked under the nightie, he thought. She's sort of top heavy for a slender girl. I think I like that, he decided. At least, part of him seemed to like it a lot.

The light went out and Ricky examined the negative afterimage of her breasts while hearing Ceecee run across the room and throw herself into the bed. The springs protested and she rolled against him, the covers between them.

"Can't see a thing," she commented directly into his ear.

Shivery sex signals raced up and down his spine.

"I've changed my mind," she breathed.


"Sex. Let's fuck."

He caught his breath. "B-but, you're married."

"Don't let that worry you, I'm going to have it annulled when I get to California." She licked his ear lobe.

He wanted to think about it. And something else bothered him.

"W-what did you name the spiders?" he asked.


Later, Ricky dreamed of a happier day back before a drunk driver had taken his parents and older brother away from him. Back when he was small enough to fit in his father's lap, years before tragedy marred his life, back before he even knew he had an Aunt Helena.

"I'm in first grade again," he said to himself. The halls of Potowatomie Elementary School in Clark's Lea, Iowa surrounded him with paper murals painted by the bigger kids to celebrate some holiday. Most of the children towered over him. He hadn't hit his growth spurt until eighth grade and had been only average-sized for his age before that.

He felt happy. His parents would be alive and he wouldn't feel the crushing pressure of not knowing what to do -- Momma and Daddy would fix everything. He was working through the second chorus of the Oscar Mayer song, when someone reached out of a closet, or a room, or maybe a locker and pulled him inside.

A little red-haired girl with the bluest eyes he had ever seen held his wrist with both hands. "Something weird is going on," she said.

He tried to escape but her grip was like some octopus or snake. There didn't seem to be any bones he could pry against to get loose.

"I never went to this school," she said. "I went to school in California. Look around, no Mexicans, nothing written in Spanish. And you know, you're five or six years older than me -- if you're in the first grade, I should still be a baby."

"Huh," he said.

She rolled her eyes and let go of him all by herself but now he couldn't move because he wanted to know what what she had said meant.

"What's your name?" she asked. "Frank? Chisolm? Bluto?"

"No," he said. "I'm Ricky. And you're that girl...." What girl? he wondered.

"I'm Ceecee," she said. "I think we're dreaming."

"Suits me," said Ricky. "Wanna come over to my house and have lemonade and cookies?"

"I guess," said Ceecee. "But is this your dream or mine?"

They went home the long way and stopped in the park to ride the swings, the merry wheel, and the teeter-totter and to climb on the old airplane buried in the sand box.

Later, they went to Ricky's house and he cried when he saw his mother. "For goodness sake," Mrs. Peters said, patting him on the back. "Is this your little friend?" She smiled at Ceecee who looked uncomfortable.

Ricky wiped his eyes. "This is Ceecee, she goes to school in California."

Ricky's mom kept smiling. "Has he asked you to marry him yet? Ricky asks all the little girls he likes to marry him."

"I'm already married," said Ceecee.

"Well, that's one answer I don't think anyone else has given him." Mrs. Peters laughed.

Ricky looked confused. "That's right," he said. "You ran away because he was a... redneck aristocrat. Only you used a bad word there."

"Oh, my," Mrs. Peters said. "Do you use bad words, Ceecee?"

"Sometimes, when I need them," Ceecee admitted. "When a good word is too good for the job and only a bad word will do."

"A proper young lady should never use bad words," said Mrs. Peters.

"This is some fucked up dream," said Ceecee.


After lemonade and cookies, they went up the outside staircase to the room on top of the house. Ricky didn't remember such a room built onto his home growing up but Ceecee said it had to be there and sure enough it was.

"Is it locked?" he asked as Ceecee tried the door.

"Pff. No," said Ceecee.

Inside, the room looked vaguely like an old-fashioned motel room, a familiar motel room. There were two other doors, one to a closet and one to a bathroom. Light came in from windows on all sides and Ricky knew that somehow, that just wasn't right.

Two grown-ups were sleeping in the bed, a large man and a much smaller woman. They didn't move, they didn't even seem to be breathing as Ricky and Ceecee's six-year-old selves crept into the room.

"It's us," said Ricky, mastering the obvious.

"Is it? Look." Ceecee pointed.

Ricky didn't notice at first. "What? Don't they look like us?"

"Look at their hair, doofus," said Ceecee.

Now Ricky saw that the woman was blonde and the man had dark red hair. Somehow he knew that the woman had hazel eyes with flecks of green, gold and silver and the man had blue eyes that were the same blue as those road signs that tell you where the rest stops are on the Interstate.

"Huh?" said Ricky.

"They're us all right, but they're us if we were each other instead of being ourselves."

"That makes no sense."

Ceecee glared at him. "This is a dream, isn't it? Why should it make any sense at all?"

"My dreams usually make sense," said Ricky.

"What do you dream about? Adding up columns of numbers?"

"Sometimes," Ricky admitted. "Sometimes I dream about my aunt or my parents."

Ceecee didn't say anything for a bit. She just stood there pulling on her lower lip and making that noise with your tongue that you use to call a cat, only real slow.

"Did you ever dream about being someone else?" she finally asked.

Ricky shook his head. "I don't think so. You mean like dreaming I was someone in a book or a movie? I had a dream I was in a Spiderman movie once but I wasn't Spiderman, I was just me and the Green Goblin threw me off a bridge."

"That," said Ceecee, "is a really shitty dream."

"I didn't like it much, no."

Ceecee walked around the bed and looked into the bathroom and the closet. "Who did you rent this place from, Norman Bates?"

"Who? No, it was Fayreuth Handshaw. He has a brother named Jersalam."

"You're making those names up. No wait, you couldn't make up names like that."


Ceecee looked at him. "They're too funny to be something you made up."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You ever notice people laughing and you don't know what they're laughing at?"

"Uh. Yeah, I guess so."

Ceecee shook her head. "I guess it must be like being colorblind, you never know what you're missing."

"That's not funny," said Ricky. "You're just trying to hurt my feelings."

Ceecee stopped looking at the decrepit chest of drawers and turned back to Ricky. "You're cute when you get all fucking sensitive, you know?"


They played some sort of game in which little Ricky became Ricki and Ceecee became Ceece, and they played at being each other for a bit.

They ran down the stairs and Ricki felt her ponytail bounce and her skirt flash around her knees. Ceece jumped the last several steps, all at once, and landed on his corduroy butt and Ricki had to laugh at him, he was so funny.

Ceece laughed too and got up and dusted himself off then ran part way back up the stairs to jump off again from even a step higher and this time he landed without falling down.

Ricki clapped her hands, enjoying the game.

"Wanna see me do it again?" Ceece asked, swaggering a bit.

"No, that's okay," Ricki said. "I'm sure you could do it all day if you wanted to." And she laughed and Ceece laughed.

"This is fun," said the red-headed boy and the little blonde girl nodded.

"You want me to go back up to the room and bring down the spiders and introduce you to them?" he offered.

Ricki shook her head. "No, thank you."

"I named them," said Ceece. "Kermit for the skinny one, Miss Piggy for the big one, and," here he put his hand in his pocket and pulled it back out quickly, "Fozzie for the funny-looking one I put in my pocket!"

Ricki shrieked before she saw it was only a piece of lint.

Ceece laughed. "You are such a girl," he said.


They were at school.

"I think you're older than me now," said Ricki. She had on a blue and yellow flower print dress with wide white collars and big yellow buttons. She knew she looked very cute and rather thought she liked that. She had more shape than most eleven-year-old girls but Ceece was taller, he looked about thirteen.

"I think we're in middle school," he said. "Let me carry your books."

She smiled at him and let him carry the books.

The dreamscape changed as they walked from a generic mid-western middle school toward a more California high school. Ricki's shape changed even more and Ceece bulked out, growing taller.

"I'm a senior," said Ceece. "You're frosh."

Ricki glanced down. She wore a short, navy, pleated skirt with a silky gold blouse and her shoes had miniature pompoms on the laces. "You were a cheerleader?"

He snorted. "My grades weren't good enough."

"You look different than I did at this age. I had a weight problem, after--after," she didn't want to say it. "This is a dream, isn't it? Are you on the football team?"

"Yup, defensive captain."

"You need good grades for football, too."

He shrugged. "It's easier for some reason."

She nodded. "It is a dream, after all?"

"Is it?"

"Well, I think so."

"I'm not so sure."

Neither said anything for a moment. The season progressed as they walked, fall, winter then spring. Flowers bloomed in an improving economy, birds tweeted the minutiae of their lives, bees buzzed with investment news about honey futures.

Ceece cleared his throat. "Going to the dance?" he asked.

Ricki nodded. "Neddie asked me."

"Ned Sweet?" asked Ceece, his deep voice cracking. "That's the asshole I married! What's he doing in this dream?"


Hamilton Edward Sweet IV, called Ned by friends and family, paused before getting into his white Dodge Ram doolie five-quarter. His cousins, Tater, Luther and Bo waited to hear what he had to say. They were all big men, though Tater was not tall, and they all had the Sweet family look; heavy blond eyebrows, meaty shoulders and big knobby hands.

"Boys, the last time the kidnapper was seen was in Memphis, so I want you to go there and see can you pick up his trail." They nodded. "I'm going out to the airfield to get my plane and fly to Okay City." They nodded again. "I'll head east on the road from there and we'll meet in Little Rock if one or t'other of us hasn't caught the sumbitch."

"Don't worry, Ned," said Tater. "We'll ketch'im and get your bride back." Tater was Hamilton Edward Sweet III, son of Ned's uncle, Hamilton Patrick Sweet, known as Salty. All of the Sweet men for four generations were named Hamilton (something) Sweet, differing only by middle name or Roman numeral suffix.

Ned nodded, tight-lipped. He got into the doolie and closed the door and his father, Hamilton Edward Sweet II, pulled away from the wedding party headed toward the private family airfield outside of Huntsville, Alabama.

Luther, Hamilton Luther Sweet, spit on the ground. "Kidnapped my Sweet ass. She runned off and he knows it."

Bo, Hamilton William Sweet II, grinned at his cousins. "That redhead had more sense than his first wife, she run off before the wedding night."

They all laughed, climbed into another Dodge doolie, this one black, and headed toward Memphis where a service station attendant had reported to a Tennessee State trooper in the Sweet family employ having spotted an Aston-Martin with Illinois dealer plates.

Luther drove and Tater, as oldest, took shotgun leaving Bo alone in the big back seat -- alone except for three shotguns, six pistols, two rifles and a machine gun.

Tater puzzled on something for a minute or two. When they hit the highway and the truck stopped bouncing like rodeo Brahma, he turned and asked Bo a question. "Redhead? Wasn't that little lady...."

"Cecelia," put in Luther.

"Yeah, Ceecee, wasn't she a blonde?"

"Hell, no," said Bo. "She had dark red hair."

Tater shook his big ol' head and looked puzzled. "Could'a sworn she was a yaller-haired temptress." He looked at Luther.

Always a conciliator and a compromiser, Luther suggested, "Strawberry blonde?"

"Bullshit," said Bo. They argued about it all the way to Memphis.

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