Three Winter Dreams



Something big and unnamable is coming. Like a train through a dark snowy night letting loose with a whistle that shakes the foundations of the whole forest. You don’t know what it is, but it’s coming.

You don’t know where you are. You do not remember where you live. Your feet crunch the snow. The stinging wet drops scrape your face. You are invisible to random strangers passing quickly in the blinding storm. In an unknown city, you are reduced to being only two wide frightened eyes. A parent pulls a kid close to stay out of your path. You pass a small house with an open window, you think about the insanity of keeping a window open in this storm. But from that window, cranked up really loudly and mixing with the snow, you hear music and a lyric:

Now the first days are the hardest days,
Don’t you worry anymore.

The moment you hear that music, a battered blue Plymouth, windshield wipers slapping down the snow, ambles easily over to the curb right next to you. The window cranks down, the warmth rolls out. He smiles and says, “Hey, good to see you back in town.”

“Bus just came in. Rough storm, huh?” you say.

“Well, I’m glad you made it. Got everything you need? I’m on my way downtown. Can I pick anything up for you?”

“No, no, I’m fine. I can run over to the store and pick up some soup, bread, and peanut butter for dinner.”

“OK,” he says. “Well, then we’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Thanks, John.”

“You bet!”

The snow lets up. You’re safe.


New Year’s Day, just after sunrise. Around you, acres of a snowy city park are empty. Hum of traffic rumbling on the road called Lake Shore Drive that traces the line of the giant Lake Michigan’s icy shoreline. Last night you and your pal caught the midnight show at a place called the Earl of Old Town.

Stomping your feet to keep them warm, outside in the line to get inside. Then tables jammed together, this tiny little place. The stage a few slabs of plywood six inches high above the floor. The performer is a wild, grinning elfin bundle of energetic joy—railing on that guitar until even the memory of cold is gone, he makes that room so hot.

He sings:

Would you like to learn to dance?
Well I can teach you that …

His wife is at the table in front of yours. All the tables so close they touch.

I hear him sing:

And all the towns and people seem
To pass into a bad dream
The old steel rail, it ain’t heard the news
The conductor hears its song again
The passengers will please refrain
This train’s got the disappearing railroad blues

As his joy found its way into even the most frigidly cold corners of the Chicago winter night while his time with us on earth was winding down ferociously fast, his wife turned around and said to my pal and me:

“Could you guys please pass the salt?”

So my pal and I could proudly remind each other, tromping happily through the snowy fields of Lincoln Park after the concert, that we got to be on salt-passing terms with the wife of that singer of joy.


Again something unnamable coming. This time something very, very good is just about to happen.

From the snowy fields you step inside the conservatory.

It’s like a zoo for plants. A tropical rainforest of green, moist ferns; trees’ winding branches under a clear glass bubble that keeps the snow and the winter and everything else outside. You’ve stepped from ten degrees of snowy cold into eighty degrees of steamy jungle vines.

Traveling deeper into the warmth, you find yourself knocking on the door of a kitchen. She opens the door and smiles; the smell of chocolate-chip cookies floats out. You hear:

I’m in love, I’m in love, but it’s easy to see.
Just what’s the matter with me.

Searching for love … could this be her?


From Finding Work When There Are No Jobs
Copyright 2013. Think Different Press. Chicago, IL

2 Responses to “Three Winter Dreams”

  1. Naomi de Plume Says:

    Just marvelous, ChiGuy. I’m so glad you’re still writing here. I love your stuff.

  2. chicagoguy14 Says:

    Naomi–Thanks so much. Sometimes this is the only thing that keeps me sane!

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