: : Part 2 : :
When God walks into your dreams, everything changes. You can ask anyone about that and they’ll say the same thing. About the only thing that changes is what he says to you when you see him. Some will run off and become ministers and change the world. Others will team up, hop on bikes, and ride around neighborhoods, telling everyone about their own particular dream. Sometimes God might tell someone to shape up, or watch their diet. He might tell them to live in a trailer and take in stray cats. There’s a whole lot of different things God might decide to tell people in their dreams. Sometimes everyone in the whole church is dressed almost identical, so he must talk about fashion once in awhile. He even goes so far as to tell some people to stop having sex, if you can imagine that.
But God never went that far with me. He mostly just stood there and thumbed through that thick stack of bills, smiling really big. A big, handsome, toothy smile, like anyone would have thumbing through such a thick wallet. He never once told me how to dress, or where to live or what to eat or anything at all about cats. And if he ever said anything about sex, I never heard him. I might have been just waking up, and getting to that part of the dream where you still see the picture but lose the sound. Or maybe I was just too busy staring at all that money. He might have said more, but I don’t think so. No, I think it was mostly just about the money.
All through grade school, into high school, and then into college, I would look for money. I would look everywhere I could possibly think of. Obvious places, like under couch cushions and the cracks of chairs. I’d empty out my parent’s dresser drawers, looking for hidden stashes. If I went swimming, I’d dive to the bottom of the lake and feel around in the mud. There was no end to the number of places money might be hiding. The branches of a tree, buried in the yard, under the dog’s collar, between the pages of every book in the library. I looked through them all.
I would walk around with my head down, staring at the ground, thinking that maybe, just maybe, a person might pick up a few extra bucks the way my grandma had once picked up arrowheads. She’d had a whole shoebox full. I only dream of being so lucky, and continue to walk around with my head down for many years, until one day I look up and realize I have somehow ended up in college. Broke and alone, I have no choice but to seek employment.
Getting a job has always been easy for me. I like to think that it’s all been part of the plan. Just more of the dream, only the awake part. It’s been so easy that once, a long time ago, I walked into a Burger King and asked for the manager.
“I need a job,” I told her, after filling out an application.
“What makes you want to work for Burger King?” she asked.
“I’ve never worked fast food before,” I told her. “I think it’d be funny.”
She thought for a second, then said, “See you in the morning. Wear black shoes.”
But that wasn’t the employment I was seeking that day. And I wasn’t quite so cocky back then either. I wasn’t quite sure how to get a job in the highly competitive, fast-paced life of a college town. I didn’t even know where to look, so I just looked in the one place I always looked - my wallet.
For years I’d carried around a newspaper clipping, that was by now wrinkled and yellow. It was an obituary, of someone I’d never met.
Carl Fletcher, 90, Inventor of the Corn Dog, Dies
DALLAS - Carl Fletcher, aged 90, who was credited with inventing the corn dog, died Wednesday at his home. Fletcher was asphyxiated after becoming entangled in a bed restraint, authorities said. Fletcher had the idea of sticking a wiener on a stick, dipping it in batter and frying it.
It is the only direction I need, and soon find myself employed by the local mall’s corn dog stand. Someone slides me into a fine green, orange, and purple polyester uniform, both pants and shirt, and I am ready for action. Training is hardly necessary. Everyone knows corn dogs.
Standing there, I find myself taking a certain pride in serving up the dream of a dead man. It’s a useful job, serving up something that people can eat with one hand so they can continue to shop with the other. I enjoy the coolness of the mall and the endless stream of beautiful, hungry people. But after a week, I find myself wearing thin. While the free, all you can eat (if you sneak) corn dogs are good, the money is not. My shoebox is not filling up. My wallet is not even filling up. I begin to take out my frustration on unsuspecting shoppers.
“I’ll have a corn dog, please,” someone might say. They are polite and undeserving of anything I might have to say.
“Alright. Lemonade with that?” I know I am only drawing them in. Gaining their confidence.
“That sounds good. Yes. Thank you.” So polite. So nice. It’s time.
“Are you familiar with Carl Fletcher?” I ask, looking them in the eye. Their corn dog is ready, but I hold it behind the counter, just out of reach. People, I’ve found, will endure just about any amount of harassment when their food is dangled just out of reach.
“No, I don’t,” they say, and then add something like “Does he work here?” or “You must be mistaking me for someone.”
“No, Carl doesn’t work anywhere anymore. I’m afraid he’s dead,” I say, and then lean in real close, across the counter, and say, “Strangled to death. In his own restraints.”
No shopper ever knew what to say. They’d only come for a corn dog. If they said anything at all, it was always, “Oh, I’m sorry,” hoping that politeness was the key to a safe retreat. I hand them their corn dog without another word and watch them hurry away. I always felt like yelling something more, something like, “We all strangle in our own restraints!” But that always felt too dramatic, so I never did.
But not every day serving corn dogs was a bad one. The mall, we all know, has always been a hotbed for hormones, and it was no different for me that summer. Forces other then money are at work on my mind and body. At eighteen, my hormones are as hot as the fryer to my left. I am naive, eighteen, and horny, and approach each young woman at the counter with a stupid, shiny look that men think is seductive. For me, it is entirely believable that a woman will fall in love with an eighteen year old boy wearing green, orange, and purple polyester, with matching hat.
Lost in thought, I don’t even see the woman until she is right there, standing at the counter. I have no time to think, no time for what I imagine to be cleverness. When I turn, I am face to face with the most perfectly beautiful woman I have ever seen. Looking at her, I am suddenly painfully aware of everything. Suddenly I know exactly what I look like in polyester. I know exactly how blank my face looks. I know that I can say almost nothing.
“May I help you?” It is the only thing I know how to say. Face to face with beauty and the only words I manage to say are the same ones on the training poster in the back room of the corn dog store. Polite words. Safe words. Words signaling retreat.
But I have no intention of retreating. I’ve come to far to let this moment slip by. Retreat is not an option. I reach around and grip my wallet through the polyester, building up confidence. It’s now or never.
“Do I know you?” I say. It’s the best I’ve got, but at the moment, seems better then nothing.
She just smiles and shakes her head, real slow, back and forth, then says “What about Carl Fletcher? Aren’t you going to ask me about him?”
Carl Fletcher? Who is this beautiful woman, asking me about Carl Fletcher? I can’t think fast enough, standing there in front of her, so I turn and take her corn dog out of the fryer. Here’s a woman who knows about Carl Fletcher. Here’s a woman who sees through my shiny, irresistible horny look. Here’s a woman who thinks of corn dogs as more then just a convenience food
Here’s a woman a man can fall in love with. I just can’t let her walk away, walk off into the mall and disappear. I’ve waited all summer for this chance. I turn and hand her the corn dog.
“Of course you know me,” she says, still smiling. “We met quite a few years ago.”
Met before?! What? Where? I don’t remember! I try to remember. I try to think of anyplace I could have seen such a woman. I try to remember every dream I’d ever had, thinking maybe I’d seen her there. I even try to think about everything God told me, but all I can see is his big grin and that stupid wallet. I have to say something to her.
“I’ve been looking for someone like you all my life!” It blurts out, just like that. There is no stopping it. My lips seem bent on destroying me. My head feels loose and wobbly. I’m not sure if I’m about to faint or if my neck has become loose. When she talks, I feel saved.
“You told me once long ago that you were looking for arrowheads. And now you tell me that you’re looking for me?” I don’t know what to say. I can say nothing. Numbly, I reach out as she hands me the money for the corn dog, and is then that I remember.
No you’re not, you’re looking for me
she’d said to me all those years ago as she’d handed me my first arrowhead. Suddenly her words back then made perfect sense. I was looking for her. Not money. It was Economic Recovery that I’d been searching for all along.
But what really confused me was how this woman could have become so young and beautiful. How could she be so desirable, so knowing, after all these years? When I’d seen her as a child, hadn’t she already been old? Was I confused, or had she changed?
The feeling of her skin touching mine as she handed me the money is still too fresh, too intoxicating. My mind is reeling. Is Economic Recovery really this close, our hands actually touching after all these years of searching in vain for the wrong thing? Has her eye been on me all along, watching me circle round and round, lost and unsuccessful, like I had been in my search for arrowheads? I have too many questions. It is overwhelming.
I realize suddenly, standing there in my corn dog uniform, that my fascination for arrowheads has become a fascination for money which has become a love for Economic Recovery. I have come of age. I close my eyes, and over the sizzle of the grease, I can hear her song and feel myself drawn into the dream of her. She is a siren humming a financial love song. No man can resist her.
I look over the counter and into the mall, expecting to see her, but she has disappeared, taking with her one corn dog and the answers to all of my questions. Once again, like so long ago at the dump, she has walked in and out of my life, hardly breaking stride. It is, to say the least, heartbreaking.
“Do you know what it’s like to be in love with Economic Recovery?” I say. “You feel her alluring, seductive dance. The fragrance of her financial success plays upon your lips. She is beautiful and unforgiving. But most of all, she is illusive and haunts you like no other. God, how she haunts you.”
But there is no one at the counter. No one is listening.