Downturning Dreams

July 27, 2009
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Michael Ryan and his friend whom he called Hoss would walk every day from the convenience store at the end of the city block they lived on to the school they attended in the heart of the city, ten blocks away. Michael was a slim boy with stringy blond hair that fell past his slender face, punctuated with hazel eyes that always tended to blend into the greenery on the walk so it appeared that there were only holes in his head where his eyes should be. Hoss though was the antithesis of all that was Michael; he was built much more sturdily and could withstand any blow that Michael would playfully throw at him. His hair was short, black and often greasy because the part of town the boys lived in was often without water. The environment of the walk never changed much, save the construction that brought new, intimidating equipment every day. Being 15 and 16, Michael and Hoss were above gawking at the machines, but they still had a manly appreciation for their engineering.

One day, in the middle of the summer, they saw a cement mixer turn into the building site down the way and decided that on the next day, they would stop by early, when only the foreman was there, likely stowed away in his office trailer, and carve their names into the partially dried concrete. Meant only as a harmless prank, they saw nothing wrong with some innocent fun.

The school day featured a morality assembly in which assorted public officials from the city government would stand and speak in front of a slough of uninterested middle and high school students during the hour before lunch. The speakers urged the crowd to continue making good choices and offered the standard pizza parties and extended breaks to the grade that had the highest marks in citizenship the following semester. One speaker stuck with Michael and Hoss the most though, an elderly woman named Christine Stumble. She spoke of her daughter in a manner that stuck with them.

"My daughter Christie was only 16, like many of you, when she started innocently experimenting with drugs. I started to find the paraphernalia and drugs around her room the next year, but she eventually came to me and asked me for help. I did all I could to help her, including detox sessions and programs that eventually bankrupted the family and led to me closing the bakery that many of you may know, Christine's."

"S***, man I didn't know this would be THE Christine. I wondered why the bakery closed, I loved going there in the morning for a bagel," Hoss said, drawing Michael's attention.

"Yeah she was pretty cool from what I remember. I didn't recognize her at first," Michael said.

Christine continued with her story of downfall from drugs and poor choices, but the boys only halfway listened as they scanned the room passively, actively looking at the clock, measuring the time until they were dismissed. Michael dozed a bit before the time came though.

In his dream, Michael and Hoss were at the construction site, but it was on fire. The whole lot, even the equipment, was lighting up the sky with amber colored flames that licked at Michael's face. He watched for a while, but Hoss suddenly darted into the fire, not hesitating at all. Michael tried to yell, but his words got caught in his throat, like all seem to do in dreams. Hoss barreled into the flames, lowering his shoulder like a football lineman. Michael was left no choice but to fly in after him, but noticed no pain as he followed Hoss into the center of the building.

By the point Hoss reached the center of the building, Michael could already notice the baby engulfed in flames on the ground, and rushed to grab him, but the baby was not crying at all. He grabbed up the baby, and was about to pull away the drape covering its face when Hoss jolted him awake.

"Dude get up there's a fire at the construction site down the road and they're making everyone leave the school. We were just about to go there after school too... Can you imagine being stuck there in a fire that big?"

"Do they know what caused it yet?" Michael asked.

"No, but if we hurry up and get there we can watch the thing burn. I like fire and stuff like that."

The boys rushed to the site, and when they got there, the fire was a sight to behold, much like the one in Michael's dream. The flames had engulfed the building, and he imagined that the crane leaning into the crumbled building had burst into flames when it struck a gas line, but he felt unsafe standing so close to the fire, so he pulled at Hoss' shirt sleeve and muttered a quick let's go.

"No wait, do you hear that?" Hoss asked.

"No I don't hear anything, let's go before it gets any worse though I don't want to be near this place if it blows up."

"Yeah I guess you're right."

The noise Hoss had heard had turned out to be pressure building in the hydraulic lines of the crane because shortly after they left, the earth shook as the monster burst into flames, sending a cloud of orange and yellow miles into the sky. The force of the explosion broke windows within a half mile radius of the site because the fire caught the propane tanks stored there and violently erupted. The boys ducked and covered their ears, then looked at each other before running home.

Watching the noise later that evening at Michael's house, the boys learned what had caused the crane to tip. Earlier that morning, a young boy had stopped by the site to do the same thing Michael and Hoss were going to do in the concrete, and the foreman, making his morning inspection of the job site, had tripped in the carvings, causing his cutoff remote to the crane to go haywire and swinging the arm into the building. As the arm collided with the building, the quit halt in momentum had caused the crane to tumble sideways onto the length of the building.

Michael, always a vivid dreamer and uneasy sleeper, had been suffering from bouts of sleepwalking, and had left his home with his baby brother to go play in the building. He was standing in the middle of the top floor when he woke up, teetering over the edge of a catwalk. He was too shook up to notice his baby brother on the floor below, who was long asleep as Michael was walking home.

As the fire cleared, the firemen discovered Michael's name etched perfectly in the concrete.





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