You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you
can start where you are and change the ending.
Parkside, San Francisco, California
8:20 a.m. GMT–8, April 28, 2022
The fog. The fog billows by. The fog that surrounds during the night
slowly retreats. So too begins the morning retreat of the infamous
San Francisco fog, slowly but surely back into the Pacific, only to
return once again every night. And so it has been for Peter Gollinger since he
was born. The wet blanket of billowing fog all night is all his mind knows.
Half-awake, half still in the fog of a traumatic dream, in a full sweat, he
bolts up out of bed, yelling, “I can’t kill. I can’t. What do I do?” Dazed, he
looks at his clammy hands held out in front of him, shaking, gripping
Heart rate beyond tachycardic, clammy hands in tight fists, he looks
around in panic for someone. “Where is she? Forget where, who is she? Oh, I
wish, I wish I could remember these ordeals of my nights.”
Stumbling to his small bathroom, so tight his knees hit the wall when he’s
seated on the squeezed-in can, he turns and looks around his one-room studio
rental, the highest room in one of those pastel-colored stucco box houses that
line the streets of this part of San Francisco.
“Did I just remember a dream? Did I just dream of a gun? I hate guns.
Why would I dream of things that scare me?”
He sighs again, looking at his war zone of a bed with the pillows bunched
up and tossed about, the sheet and blankets in twisted spirals, flung in all
directions. He glances back into the oval mirror over the sink in his small
bathroom. He brushes back his sandy brown hair, with vestiges of the
blondness of his younger days. He tries to smile to show his dimples, but he
can only frown as the bags under his eyes signal the fatigue his nightly dramas
bring. “If only I could get a restful night. Even once every new moon would
do,” muses Peter.
A mug full of microwave-heated imitation gourmet coffee and Peter is
ready to start his day at his dilapidated desk, perpendicularly placed next to
his one window that provides just a peek of his precious Pacific fog. The walls
of his tiny place are bare save three posters, ones that remind him of someone
who meant so much to him. The newest with all the Starship Enterprises, from
the 60s to the seventh of the reboot series. Another with all the alien gods and
goddess of the Stargate franchises. And one emblazoned with the X-Files
motto: I want to believe.
He clasps his MoxWrap around his wrist like a lucky rabbit foot. He needs
some luck to go his way again. He could never have afforded one of these, but
one day last year, MoxWorld Holdings sent him one free. Totally free, with
no service fees, even. He won one of those contests where he answered a series
of questions. Somewhat personal questions, but free is free.
MoxWorld clearly demonstrated to him why they were the worldwide
leaders in all things digital. Out of nowhere, they even sent him a free
upgraded unit last week. Other than the quite pleasant tingling feeling he gets
from the occasional upgrade, what’s not to like?
He had to play a promo ad to activate this unit:
“The device sitting on your wrist now will change your life. For the better.
The MoxWrap is simply revolutionary. Thin, flexible, and available in your
choice of seven sizes that allow custom molds around any adult’s arm. Lighter
than the now-obsolete smartphone, with the comfort of a terry-cloth
wristband, the MoxWrap contains the power of a personal command center.
With solar-assisted batteries, the run time vastly exceeds all previous options.
You could be in the wilderness for days, and as long as the sun shines, you
will have around-the-clock minicomputer power through its satellite links to
hectares of processors, the largest databases in the world, and infinite memory
capacity. Triple the bandwidth and burst speeds of the best alternative
technology allows for applications never imaginable until now.
Congratulations on a smart decision.”
He taps his lucky rabbit foot surrogate and the associated processor unit
on his desk beams up a screen as well as a virtual keyboard hologram.
Keyboards are the instruments of his music. Of his magic. For he is an editor.
A copy editor, making the written work of others that much better.
He reads his messages, deleting all but the flagged one from MoxMedia he
has kept for two days. Fingers tapping the desk, he waits for a message from
his managing editor, Jerrod, with news of his bonus, as well as—maybe—an
offer to become permanent and no longer a contractor. He rubs his MoxWrap
again, wishing for luck.
He picks up an old-fashioned picture frame on his desk that holds an
equally old-fashioned photo print of a woman. Someone else no longer in his
life, who meant so much to him. She is attractively and tastefully posed, with
her long dishwater-blond hair in a ponytail cascading down the front of her
open plaid shirt, which is tied at the bottom, covering her sports bra. Her
raggedy blue jean cut-offs accent her lovely tanned legs, which slip right into
her grey woolen socks, encased in her medium-height brown hiking boots.
She was picture-perfect, his goddess at the top of Mount Shasta.
Catching himself lamenting about what once was, he puts a tank top and
shorts on his lean runner’s body, one of average height for an American.
Within minutes he is jogging down the Great Coastal Highway alongside his
beloved Pacific Ocean. Running in the fog is his best therapy for the fog of
his brain, trying to resolve what he cannot fathom during his dark dreams.
Walking up to his studio room after his morning ritual outing, he hears
his MoxWrap sound. “Argh. Bus to the Angel’s Rest nursing home will be
here in fifteen. Pappy will be so disappointed if I’m late. And Dr. Beverly. I
hope she liked the final edit of her book.”
A quick shower and he pulls on jeans and a black t-shirt emblazoned with
a yellow banana slug, mascot of his alma mater.
Looking out the bus window at his native California, Peter sees a land of
cars, about sixteen million of them. People like Peter, who do not drive, who
do not even have a driver’s license, who are creative in finding public
transportation options—they are reducing society’s dependency on fossil
fuels, the destructive addiction to gasoline that has governed global politics
since the Second World War. As he rides the No. 397 bus from San Francisco
to Daly City, he ponders. How many wars have been fought, in the name of
God, in the name of democracy, in the name of whatever is painted to be
“just,” to ensure that the oil flows and is affordable? Peter wishes someone
could change this.
He taps his MoxWrap to watch the MoxMedia morning news program.
The world-renowned newscasters Rhonda and Sahir blare out the latest global
events on this Friday morning. “Coming up on MoxWorld News AM: In
Washington, the president defends the previous administration’s America
First policy as conflicts around the globe continue to escalate. The Great
Depression of 2020 has left the country with such an unprecedented deficit
that it can no longer afford to be the world’s policeman.
“In the Middle East, the price of oil fell through its previous floor of
twenty dollars per barrel as the Arabic Confederation last night launched an
invasion into Iran, while they amass troops at the Turkish border near
Kobanî. Recall that back in 2020, the catalyst for the creation of the Arabic
Confederation and the New Kurdistan out of the former Syria and Iraq was
the price of oil tumbling below twenty-five dollars per barrel, sending the
region into chaos once again. In Moscow, the Russian president issued terse
warnings of military reprisal for the downing of three more Russian fighters
in Turkey’s latest challenge to Russia’s no-fly zone over New Kurdistan, the
two-year-old union of the Kurds in former Iraq and Syria. In the South China
Sea, warships from China, Japan, and the Philippines face off. In Europe, the
Great Recession continues to take its toll as France and Germany retrench
spending again for the rest of 2022, announcing their inability to fund NATO
obligations. More after these messages.”
Seeing Rhonda, with her salmon-colored blouse and lips tinted peach with
lipstick from her signature makeup collection, now being advertised on his
MoxWrap, makes Peter think of his sister’s commentary on how the CEO of
MoxWorld controls women through the fashions of his female newscasters.
Peter arrives at Angel’s Rest, where Pappy has convalesced for the past four
years. As the only grandson of Nikolas Gollinger, Peter carries a deep unspoken
obligation, the only heir to the family mission his grandfather has passed along
their calling, their quest, their pursuit, their ancestral commitments.
Jenny at the front desk knows Peter very well, given how frequently he
visits. Even the attending physicians do not come as often as Peter. “Good
afternoon, Mr. Gollinger,” says Jenny teasingly.
“Jenny, it’s just Peter,” he banters back playfully.
“Mr. Gollinger is finished with his breakfast and is expecting you…Peter,
Mr. Peter. Oh yes, Dr. Fontaine is here today. She would like to talk with
you. Could you stop by her office?”
With a smidgeon of concern, Peter asks, “Anything out of the ordinary,
Jenny? Is he okay?”
“Oh, no worries about Mr. Gollinger. I think Dr. Fontaine is looking for
another special favor from you,” replies Jenny with an uncharacteristic
schoolgirl-style giggle as she dials the intercom. “Dr. Fontaine, Peter
Gollinger is here. Shall I send him down? Okay, he’s coming down now.”
With that, he is reassured and wanders down to the office that Dr.
Fontaine uses when she is visiting patients at Angel’s Rest. He sees her waiting
in the hallway outside her office. She’s more than an inch shorter than him,
seeming even shorter as she wears sensible black shoes with the slightest of
heels, which complement her brown hair, up in a tight professional bun. She
wears a white physician’s coat tailored for a woman, unlike the flat draping
ones for men. The coat is open and Peter can see she wears a white cotton
blouse and grey wool pencil skirt underneath. It does not escape Peter’s
attention that this is the first time he has seen her in a skirt, however
businesslike, and not in dark slacks.
“Peter, please come in and sit down,” says the doctor as she waves him in.
Out of habit, Peter goes to one of two chairs on the patient side of the
doctor’s desk. He looks at her business cards on the desk. Assistant Professor
of Clinical Geriatric Psychiatry, UC San Francisco Medical School.
After hanging her white lab coat behind the door, which she closes, Dr.
Fontaine opts to sit in the other patient chair, facing him with her legs crossed,
top one pointing at Peter. “Once again, you are my hero. My savior. I finished
reviewing all your changes and suggestions to my latest manuscript…our
latest manuscript. You are simply a genius with ideas, thoughts, and words,”
Dr. Fontaine says.
“Dr. Fontaine, of course—you deserve the best a simple editor like me can
“Peter, we’re behind closed doors now. Remember, you can call me
Beverly when I’m not on rounds or with patients,” she replies with a smile.
“You’re a special person. And I mean not just your editorial skills, but your
compassion. I’ve never seen anyone visit their dearest family member in a
convalescent home more than you. I think your visits have helped prolong
your grandfather’s life, or at least improve the quality of it.”
“How is he doing, Doctor…uh…Beverly?”
“Dr. Elfante, your grandfather’s physician, mentioned to me on my last visit
that your grandfather is doing well, considering the severity of his condition.
Having been a smoker for most of his life has taken its toll on his lungs. He’s a
real fighter, though. He’s determined to live for some greater purpose. Your visits are vital to his sense of purpose, Peter. You are his best therapy.”
“Beverly, I cannot thank you enough for advocating that my grandfather
not be given antipsychotics. That would be the end of him, at least his spirit.
He really wants to be cognizant in his last days.”
“Peter, I’ll be candid. My colleagues and the nurses are afraid of his restless
nights, his dreams, and how unsettled he is every morning. Dr. Elfante and I
had a long discussion about the situation, and I convinced him, after much
personal observation, that your grandfather is not endangering himself or
other patients. He’s not violent or clinically deranged. He’s just very anxious
about trying to grasp his dreams.”
Beverly shifts in her chair, leans on her left elbow with her fingers to her
lips. “That said, he seems to have confided in me more than he does in Dr.
Elfante. These dreams seem to be an issue that he’s been grappling with ever
since early childhood. Smoking was one of the ways he had been coping with
Beverly pauses, coyly smiles, and adds, “He’s been very candid about how
your grandmother had helped him cope. As he felt more comfortable talking
with me, he described her administration of a special palliative care. He
confessed that prolonged passionate interactions with his wife helped him
more than the smoking. At first I dismissed his comments as reflective of male
wish fulfillment typical in men of his generation.”
A little flushed, Peter purses his lips, then asks, “How much has my
grandfather talked about his dreams and what he’s trying to solve?”
“Your grandfather’s dreams are suggestive of a prior traumatic event, but
his life history doesn’t suggest he has directly experienced or witnessed such
an event. His condition could perhaps be the subject of another paper. Carl
Jung would have suggested that your grandfather’s dreams are a sign of great
personal transformation trying to emerge—his search for a greater context,
one with a greater sense of purpose and destiny.”
“Bev, I’m not making the link between what you’re saying and my
“The collective unconscious is part of our mind that is shared with other
humans, common to all humankind, and stems from latent memories from
our ancestral past. Perhaps in your grandfather’s case, his dreams are trying to
bring out some ancestral traumatic event.”
With a smile she adds, “Freud, on the other hand, would call his dreams
‘wish fulfillment.’ There is a forbidden or repressed wish, which may be a
result of guilt or taboos imposed by society or family. The dream is the way
to transform that wish in a nonthreatening way. It’s an attempt to resolve the
Peter shifts in his chair as he reacts to the mention of conflict. He debates
discussing the dream from last night that he can’t seem to remember.
Peter is saved by the intercom buzzing. It’s Jenny, who says, “Dr.
Fontaine, it’s Mrs. Fitzgerald again. She’s having a fit and the staff nurse is
requesting that you come as soon as you can.”
Beverly stands up to get her white coat from the door, pauses, and turns
back to Peter. “I’ll catch up with you in your grandfather’s ward. We have to
talk about the book that I’ll need your editorial help with,” she says before
running down the hallway.
Walking down to his grandfather’s unit, Peter reflects upon Beverly’s
propositions. Maybe his grandfather will have further wisdom on the subject,
he muses as he enters his pappy’s room. A single room, as the restlessness of
his dreams has precluded his peaceful cohabitation with another elderly
patient. His grandfather is slightly elevated in bed, with an oxygen mask over
a nasal cannula, indicating he is under duress.
“Pappy, how are you today? Needing a little more oxygen this morning?”
Taking off his mask, Pappy, a bit short of breath, says, “Peter. My boy. A
little late today, aren’t we?”
“I was talking with Dr. Fontaine about a new project she’s working on.”
“Oh, the good doctor. Why can’t I have her as my physician? She’d be so
much better than that Dr. Elephant. She’s so much more compassionate and
“So I gather, Pappy. You two have been spending some quality time
“I was simply trying to get her to understand how best to provide me
“So I’ve heard, Pappy. How was your night? Anything clearer?”
“The same. What I would give for a peaceful night. Peace. Even the partial
peace your grandmother provided. It isn’t so much to ask,” Pappy groans. “As
always, I awake knowing I dreamt something very important, but I cannot
piece it together. Ninety-four years of this. Ninety-two, if you don’t count
the years I couldn’t speak. And what about you? Can you remember
Scratching his head, Peter stares out the window. “The same agony of not
being able to put my finger on that important something.” He turns and
shivers. “A darkness. An emptiness. A void. That is, except for a gun.”
Pappy lurches up, very focused. “Peter, my boy, this is very important.
Tell me more.”
Peter moves closer to Pappy and helps him lean back to rest. “You know
how it is. Everything is so fuzzy. I’ve never remembered anything from these
nightly torments. But strangely, the past two mornings it’s different. Maybe
a gun, and a woman. Dark hair?”
“Yes. Yes! Gun and dark hair, Peter,” Pappy gasps. He puts the oxygen
mask back on. “I’ve waited. Thirty years. For you and me. To have the same
dream. And you needed to save her.”
Shaking his head, Peter stares down at his pappy’s aged hands holding his
mask on. “I’m afraid I can’t save anyone. Even in my dreams.”
“Everything has changed now that I know you and I have dreamed the
same images,” exclaims Pappy.
Peter pauses, processing that revelation. “Pappy, I was just down the
hallway with Dr. Fontaine, discussing the psychology of dreams. But she
explained things in such a simple way that I now understand how these
theories might relate to our disorder. She says ours are anxiety dreams. That
our minds are acting out some repression. Jung says it’s a sign that we’re trying
to transform. We’re driven by something repressed that happened to our
Peter stares at his grandfather. “What repressed conflict are we seeking to
resolve? What transformation are we seeking?”
Pappy takes Peter’s hand. “Peter, all we have is our family tradition to
guide us. Please, repeat it for me. That is the so-called repressed conflict of
Peter gulps. Looking serious, he says, “The long-tailed star came from the
sky, and our lands became ice, and winter became forever. Only the giants of
the reindeer dominate. The bright star that never sets will be your guide.
Watch for the long-tailed star.”
“Good, my boy. The second part, now.”
“And be wary of the giants, the Reindeer People, for when they arrive, you
must flee and seek the mountains.”
Pappy, assuming the patriarchal appearance that has commanded Peter’s
life, says, “The third part.”
Nervous, Peter continues, “Follow the black object, for this will guide you
as you search for your new life.”
With deepening aggravation, Pappy gasps and admonishes Peter. “Boy,
you must—you must not change anything. We have recited this from the
beginning of our line. As far back as my great-grandfather, and he said as far
back as his great-grandfather, we have passed down these oral traditions. We
must preserve them.” Pappy gasps again, and Peter helps put the mask on
From under the mask, Pappy mutters in slow, broken phrases, “Follow
the vision. And words. Of the black object. For this will guide you. As you
seek your new land.” He stops and waits for the oxygen to rebuild in his blood,
then nods for Peter to continue.
Peter mentally rehearses and finally recites, “Fourth part: Man and
woman. Only as two together can you find peace. The object can save. You
might see in sleep, might hear.”
Pappy rests his head back and gasps. After several tense minutes, he
removes the mask. “Peter, forgive an old man if he repeats himself every time
you visit. But I find that if I don’t keep repeating myself, at my age I will
begin to forget. And my grandfather pounded into my head that we should
“He made me promise to find the meaning of this object, as I have made
you and your father promise. He said what has happened in our past will
guide us in what will happen to us now.” He pauses to breathe. “And, my
boy, you have been faithful to this quest.
“When I was a boy, we had only books to help us solve the mystery of this
object,” laments Pappy. “But that little Austrian burned the ones my father
and I needed to find to continue our research, our study. It was my Austria
too, and yet he burnt our books. How were we to find this object? What did
we have to compromise for this quest? What line did my father cross to save
A very dark pause passes between them as the aged man runs his tongue
along the inside of his mouth. “His death would be in vain if we could not
make progress in finding the object. Our family name would be exonerated if
you could find it, Peter.”
Pappy pauses again, in deep reflection, with a look of regret mired in pain.
“After the war, I met your mother’s uncle, James, who was just like me. He
suffered the dreams. The dreams that haunted both his parents’ lineages as
they did mine. And we searched together. But postwar Europe was a mess,
He stares out into the hall and spots Dr. Fontaine looking busy across the
way with some charts. “And then your grandmother found me. She was a
nurse. Part of an American relief program. She recognized the dreams. Her
grandfather had them. And she knew what she needed to do to help me
through the nights, through the next morning.”
Pappy pauses. “Were you able to make any progress in your search last
week, my boy?”
Peter grimaces. “I thought I had a lead, like so many I’ve had over the
years. The professor I studied under at Santa Cruz, she has so many useful
resources and contacts. When you’re an editor, it’s amazing the doors that
open to those who want your services. Her latest contact had traced a possible
pre-Neolithic site that might tell of where the object may lie—Tell Abu
Hureyra, fifty miles east of Aleppo. The Gollinger luck strikes again. The site
is thirty feet under Lake Assad. As if I could assemble an underwater
excavation team. Besides, given what’s happened today, with the Arabic
Confederation staging an impending attack on Turkey from that area, I don’t
think I’m going to get anyone over there to help with recovering this source.”
“Peter, keep trying. You are now our ancestors’ only hope. I wish I could
fund you. I spent our entire family fortune chasing the object. But I have
taken both families’ words and traditions and passed them to you. You have
a more complete set than any of us ever had,” Pappy concludes, taking Peter’s
“I thought your father was going to solve the mystery. I was so proud of
him when he was accepted into the archeology program at Cambridge. When
he came back, I introduced him to your mother. I thought she knew what
your father needed, just like your grandmother did.”
Pappy pauses, taking a break for oxygen. “But she couldn’t handle it
anymore. Once you and your sister were in school, she told your father that
he had a choice—her or the object. Your father stopped searching, stopped
teaching you the traditions. It didn’t make his pains any better. It just got
worse. I didn’t tell him he failed. I told him I failed him. And you.”
“And Ma blames you for his death,” Peter says with tears forming. “I loved
Pa. I love Ma. I think I understand why it was so hard for her. Sarah said the
same thing to me.”
Pappy peers down at his hands. “I’m so sorry. She was a lovely girl. I
thought you two would…I thought she was so much like your grandmother.
Even better, as she shared your passion for history and discovery.”
“Pappy. Sarah, Ciara, Tara—all of them keepers according to Ma’s
definitions. All of them left me because of my pursuit of this mysterious
object. At this rate, you’ll never have great-grandchildren for me to pass these
traditions down to. My sister’s like Ma. She doesn’t want to learn them. Says
it’s just a man thing.”
“My boy, we are close. Our dreams last night. Close. Close as they have
ever been. It’s time for you to be introduced to something. Your granduncle
James wanted to pass a written document on to you, but your mother refused
to give it to you for fear that you’d end up like your father. James and I agreed
we would only show you when you found a good woman as your partner. I
thought once you married Sarah…”
“Pappy, I’m trying my best to move on from Sarah. Evidently, I’m not the
kind of man who could provide the protection, the security, a woman like her
“That’s what your father said. That is, until your grandmother had the
good sense to introduce him to James’s niece, your mother.” Pappy coughs.
“My boy, it is no secret that I am slowly dying. We cannot wait until you find
that woman you are to meet. The dream we had must be the signal. Please,
in that drawer, you’ll find James’s document.”
Peter opens the drawer in the closet and finds a metal cylinder, like a mini
thermos, with air lock seals. He opens it to find a small scroll. Animal skin
parchment, with drawings looking like Hs. These progress to two abstract
figures with their hands in front of them, forming an H. Alongside the H,
another tall male figure with a long face, long ears, and large dark eyes points
to a long-tailed star. Alongside this man, a smaller female points to an oblong
shape under a series of dots. A third female figure has one hand pointing at
the series of dots and the other at an angle of sixty degrees. Adjacent to the
figures is an area with some sort of characters.
“What is this, Pappy? How old is it? What is this part, writing?”
“What you’re holding is faith. My faith. Now our faith. When James
showed me this parchment, my faith was renewed. It’s a dialect of Akkadian
cuneiform. Right after the war, carbon dating was just being introduced to
the archeological community. Through my war buddies, we got a sample of
this tested.” Pappy pauses to catch his breath. “It’s four thousand years old.
Stunned, Peter sits on the side of the bed. He stares at the parchment and
his mind races with the possibilities. He takes several snapshots with his
MoxWrap and turns towards Pappy, asking, “Do you believe in God?”
Looking down with a dour expression, Pappy responds, “My boy, with
what I saw—with all that happened—there could not be a God.” He pauses
and sighs. “At least, not one who loves us.”
“Hence why Ma wanted to distance herself from you,” Peter laments. “She
so wanted me to believe, to have faith. To have faith in her God. But your
faith, this animal skin in my hands, is my faith too. These are aliens, Pappy.
These are aliens who met the Akkadians in 2000 BCE.”
Pappy holds his hand out so that Peter can hand him the parchment. He
turns it upside down and sideways and says, “It could be Akkadian
Halloween. It could be aliens. It could be God’s angels.” He gives the
parchment back to Peter.
“Your father was working on translating the cuneiform. It’s an old form
and a rare dialect from the northernmost reaches of the empire. He became
lost in dozens of interpretations when your mother forced him to stop. It’s
now up to you, Peter. In this digital age, in a world that is interconnected,
maybe it’s you who will find the answer.”
“Mr. Gollinger, how are we doing today?” says Dr. Fontaine as she enters
the room. “Did Peter tell you? He’s offering to work with me on a new book
on religion and the psychobiology of the soul. With what you’ve passed along
to him, his talents will be especially invaluable to me.”
Pappy glances at Peter and gives a thumbs-up. “Go for it, my boy. She’s a
keeper, this doctor.”
And the nonagenarian Gollinger takes the doctor’s hand so he can rub her
palm. “And, Doctor, could you do me a favor and take my grandson home
with you tonight? He’s behind on his ancient obligation to make more
Gollingers who can continue our search for our precious object.”
Beet-faced, Peter just wants to crawl under a bed somewhere and hide. But
the good doctor turns and takes his hand into hers and says, “I have to say,
with your grandson’s killer dimples, his eyes that emote an adorable
innocence, he is handsome. But if I married him, I would lose my best editor.”
She winks at Peter and says, “We couldn’t do that, now could we?”
She then spies the parchment in between hers and Peter’s hands and says,
She gently examines the antique animal skin, carefully scanning both sides,
then looks at Peter and says, “I have to wonder if this is related to your
grandfather’s dreams. I would love to learn more. But I have to get back to
Mrs. Fitzgerald and adjust her medications again.” She leaves, writing notes
down on her clipboard.
“Pappy, exactly what did you tell her about Grandma? From Beverly’s, I
mean Dr. Fontaine’s recounting, she thinks sex is the treatment protocol for
your condition,” Peter jests.
“My boy, I’ve surmised that you’ve already found out that sex helps. It
calms your nerves so you can grapple with what the dreams, and your inability
to remember the dreams, do to you.”
Shaking his head, Peter exclaims, “Ma says you told her she had to have
sex with Pa every night, in the middle of the night. She thought you were just
passing along ancient male power plays over women, so she resisted your
ideas. Dr. Fontaine more politely said this is another case of male wish
fulfillment. I can’t believe sex is the only solution to our problems.”
Pappy shakes his head too. “Peter, do not mistake my words. I should have
said passionate bonding, not necessarily sexual bonding or, more crudely,
physical penetration.” Pappy pauses for oxygen. “The touch of passion creates
bonds between you and your mate. Bonds that create dialogue. Bonds that
will help the two of you decode the dreams. You need to talk about what
you’re coping with in order to make any progress in understanding what is
Pappy stops to catch his breath, and then he says in a fatherly way, “I think
you need—the tradition requires that you are paired with a woman. A good
woman to find the answer to our traditions. The answer to that scroll.”
A frown passes over Peter’s face as he ponders his failings with Sarah.
“How do I know what makes a woman ‘good’ according to your definition?”
His grandfather closes his eyes, and a warm smile lifts his mouth. “You
will know, my boy. You will know first from her touch, her smell, her voice
and the sounds of her heart. And only then can you know her with your eyes.”
Closing his eyes too, Peter tries to remember Sarah’s touch, her smell, but
he can only remember the shame, the failure of discovering her in their bed
with that alpha male muscleman. Everything he is not. And that deep pain
wells up, and water seeps from the corners of his closed eyes.
“My boy, are you all right? Did you have one of those damn flashbacks?”
“I’m sorry, Pappy. I just had one of those moments. I’m okay.”
Pappy stares somberly down at his hands. “I’ve had those moments for
near eight decades now only to have failed my father. Peter, please don’t let
me fail you as well. Please.”
Scrolling his MoxMail to find that message, the message, Peter says,
“Pappy, I have the solution. I’ll apply for the junior editor position with
MoxMedia in their Middle East correspondence unit. I’ll have access to all of
MoxMedia’s resources to find the object. I’ve been sitting on this invitation
to apply for a couple of days, wondering whether I have what it takes. I won’t
fail you, Pappy. I’ll make sure I have what it takes.