Everyone Has Nightmares (A Possible Revision)

Here is a huge “THANK YOU!” to everyone who read Saturday’s posted chapter and commented. Sunday I reread all of the way back from the beginning and when I got to that chapter, it truly felt out of place and very jarring. It was a bit as if someone else had inserted a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, and so I worked on a rewrite which you will find below. It keeps the good parts, cuts out the scary parts, and also helps to make some connections to things which happened earlier in the book and prepares for action to happen later. There was also nothing in the original version to help anyone who has bad dreams, so I’ve tried to include something about that too.

Everyone Has Nightmares

The warnings from the other chickens had settled into Pearl’s mind but so had what she had seen and heard for herself. What was she to believe? Understanding people was definitely complicated, more complicated than understanding how to be a good normal chicken.

That night Pearl dreamed about being in The Bottle Cap Lady’s Chicken Freak Show. She didn’t remember how many times the dream came to her or many of the details, just that each time she would make it into the dream just a little farther until finally it felt as if there was no escape.

The dream always started with darkness. It was a darkness so dark it left Pearl thirsty for light. She would have given any and all of the treasures she had collected for just a small bit of light to be able to see even a little.

Each time the dream came to her, she went into it farther and farther, deeper and deeper, until it felt as if there was no way out. It was not just a bad dream. It was a nightmare.

At last, Pearl woke up startled and began calling out frantically. I had just gone outside with morning breakfast salad for everyone.

“What’s the matter, Pearl?” I said as I quickly put down the salad bowl. “Are you okay?”

At first, she acted as if she didn’t know me or trust me. Then she brushed her head with her wings a few times and looked around and realized where she was and that everything was fine.

She fluffed out all of her feathers to inspect them. It was as if she was checking to make sure they were all still there. Then she jumped and flapped into my waiting arms.

“You must have had a really bad night, but you’re safe now.”

She hid her head in the crook of my arm. I felt her trembling come and go. Several times she made sounds I hadn’t heard since when she was just a baby chick.

After a few minutes, her breathing became normal. She looked up at me and asked, “Is there any such thing as a Chicken Freak Show?”

“No, Pearl. That’s just something The Bottle Cap Lady made up. There’s no such thing as a Chicken Freak Show.”

“But in my dream, it all seemed so real.”

“That’s the way nightmares are, Pearl. Sometimes our imagination gets the best of us. Let’s not even call it a dream. Dreams are about things we want very much, like being a comedian with a silly new hat. Nightmares are about things we never want at all. Nightmares can seem very real, but they aren’t.”

“You are absolutely sure about there not being any Chicken Freak Shows.”

“I absolutely am. And if there ever was, I would do absolutely anything to keep you safe from it. Even if it meant being in a Chicken Freak Show myself.”

“That’s what I did in my nightmare. I took Blanche’s place in The Bottle Cap Lady’s Chicken Freak Show. I will always love Blanche so much. I never had a chance to tell her.”

“I am sure she knows from how you took care of her. There has never been a chicken with a bigger or better heart than you. And that is the absolute truth, just like there are no Chicken Freak Shows is the absolute truth.

“But I’m glad you told me about your nightmare. Sometimes when we keep bad things inside, they only get a more powerful grip on us. It’s good to talk about them. It lets light inside the darkness. Then nightmares go away. Don’t ever be afraid to tell me about them, Pearl.”

“If you love someone, is it ever for nothing? Is it ever a waste?”

“No, Pearl, I don’t believe love is ever a waste.”

“Not even in a nightmare that isn’t real?”

“Not even then, Pearl.”

“If you take someone else’s place in a Chicken Freak Show, only there’s no real Chicken Freak Show, does it still count?”

“Yes, Pearl, love always counts, even then. That kind of love is what holds this entire universe together. From the stars way up in the enormous sky above us all the way down to you little chickens right here with me. Love like that always counts.”

I felt her body relaxing at last.

“It’s not the kind of love you can hold onto and store up. It is the kind of love that sometimes bursts forcefully like the gushing water of a huge flood or that sometimes gurgles gently like the bubbling laughter of a little baby. Sometimes it is the kind of love that bleeds out slowly like a healing salve.”

I held her close to my face and felt the warmth of her cheek against mine.

“You have that kind of love in your heart now, Pearl. I know you do.”

We closed our eyes together, and with a kiss, I whispered, “I miss her too, Honey. I miss her too.”

Later I asked Gracie to keep an extra careful watch whenever I was away.

“Gracie, if you see The Bottle Cap Lady coming into our yard when I’m not home, you and the others should make as much noise as possible to attract attention. Pearl had a very bad nightmare about her last night. We all need to help her feel safe.”

“I will,” said Gracie. “We all have those from time to time.”

“But somehow this is different. She dreamed about being in The Bottle Cap Lady’s Chicken Freak Show. Do you remember how you told me once you felt there was a strange connection between the two of them?”

Gracie nodded and thought about this. She paced back and forth and then looked over at Pearl’s Comedy Coop stage which we had never taken down.

“Do you remember how the colors of the lights were changed for a time?” she asked. “It was always at night when everyone would have been asleep. What if Pearl isn’t the only one who has nightmares? What if The Bottle Cap Lady has dark and scary nightmares too?”

“What do you mean?”

“Maybe The Bottle Cap Lady was changing the lights because she couldn’t let herself go to sleep or else she would have a nightmare where she felt she had no escape. Just like Pearl. Maybe she was behind that mystery. Then whatever had caused the nightmares passed when her sorrowful season passed, and she could sleep again. Afterwards she put the lights back the way they had been.”

“That does seem a bit far-fetched, Gracie, but I am beginning to think with The Bottle Cap Lady, anything is possible.”

“Pearl’s nightmare will go away because she told you about it. But The Bottle Cap Lady does not have anyone to talk to about her nightmares, not a friend in the world. Chickens can tell these things.

“She is either afraid of something that might happen or plagued by something that has already happened.”

“You could be right, Gracie.”

“No matter what, we will all be extra watchful to help Pearl feel safe. Chickens help chickens feel safe, even when we don’t understand each other. Blanche was right about her.”

“What does that mean? The part about Blanche being right?”

“Just talk amongst chickens,” she said, brushing that part aside. She would say no more about it.

Gracie had wondered if she should tell me about how Pearl had been using the secret gap to visit The Bottle Cap Lady, but she decided against it. She knew that if she told me about it, I would close it up securely. If The Bottle Cap Lady did do something unpredictable like trying to take Pearl away, at least Pearl would have a way of escaping. It was not an easy decision for Gracie, and it weighed heavily up on her heart.

“I do have one idea,” said Gracie. “We could hire The Jump Rope Girls to be our ‘chicken sitters’ in the afternoon when they get home from school. She avoids them.”

“And what would you pay your ‘chicken sitters’ with?” I asked.

“What about cupcakes?” said Bessie who had been listening.

We all laughed together. Bessie truly would have followed through with laying the eggs and helping to bake the cupcakes.

“We can put that on our list of possibilities. In the meantime, I have complete confidence in how well you two girls can keep everyone safe, especially Pearl. I will let her know you will be watching out for her.”

When I shared this with Pearl, she was genuinely surprised that Gracie and Bessie understood about her nightmare and were going to keep an extra sharp lookout.

“Why do they want to keep me safe? They have never acted very friendly towards me.”

“Because you are a chicken, just like them. Chickens help chickens feel safe even when they don’t understand them. That’s what Gracie said.”

“Are people like that?”

“Sometimes. But I must admit that chickens seem to be much better at it than people.”

“Then this is sort of like the one hundred and twenty bones that all chickens have but we can’t see, right? It’s what we can not see that really should be keeping us together and helping each other and not what we can see.”

“That’s right, Pearl. I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

“How many bones do people have?”

“Grownup people have two hundred and six.”

“That’s a lot more than chickens. But then again people are a lot bigger than chickens. But we do have more feathers than people.”

“That’s not very fair, Pearl. People don’t have any feathers at all.”

“Then people must need a chicken’s help from time to time, don’t you think?”

“Yes, we probably do, Pearl, we probably do,” I said with surprise. “How can any little hen be as adorably cute and wise as you are, Pearl?”

“I guess it’s just ‘in my bones,’ especially when it’s time to…”

She paused, flapped her wings, and then we both laughed and said together, “Feed the chickens!”

I have pulled the eBook versions from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble until I have everything polished up and consistent. I am glad that there are no paperback versions out there yet, just my own proofs. Seriously, if you are disappointed by the eBook versions you purchased, I will be glad to personally refund you. Just send your email receipt to John.Spiers@yahoo.com. Thank you!

My Life With Gracie…Magic Pictures

Magic Pictures

“Amelia and I are going to be writers,” Emily said.

“Yes, I know. Amelia told me. I have to find a typewriter. Didn’t she tell you?”

“No. Yes. Well, you don’t understand. She wants to write the words. I want to paint the words.”

“That sounds like a very interesting combination for making words. We definitely have to work to make this happen then.”

She seemed relieved and chittered happily as she flew up to her favorite perch so we would be more eye-to-eye. Her confidence and faith in me warmed my heart.

“You know, I’ve been having dreams about you and Amelia and your new typewriter.”

“You have? Really you have? We have been having dreams about a typewriter too because we don’t know what one looks like. We imagine all sorts of things.”

“I’m sure you do, and especially since you have such excellent imaginations.”

Gracie had been listening in to all of this and called up to Emily, “Tell him about your letters you have been painting.”

Emily looked a little embarrassed, though I wasn’t sure why. She draws and paints very well.

“I already know some alphabet letters,” she said. “I remember them from when you were writing out some of Pearl’s jokes into Chicken. Do you remember?”

“Yes, I remember. That was fun. All of you did a nice job of helping me to make an alphabet for writing words in Chicken.”

“Do you remember everyone’s favorite letter?”

“Yes, I do. It is the Ÿ because it looks like a chicken who is eating an earthworm. It’s source is an ancient greeting between two chickens which means ‘I wish you many earthworms.’ But that isn’t a letter on American typewriters.”

“That is why I want to paint the letters and the words.”

“Will you show me the letters you have been painting?”

“I’d rather not. Only because I’m not sure they will be like the ones the typewriter will make.”

“I see. I have a feeling your painted letters will add more meaning to the words that the typewriter makes. So in the meantime, you want me to imagine your painted letters and words, just like I want you to imagine my typewritten letters and words. At least for now.”

“That’s right.”

“That seems only fair. And I’m sure what you have done is quite wonderful in it’s own way.”

Gracie had still been listening from below. “Ask him how to make the letters into words.”

“Words are like magic pictures,” she said. “So I need to know how to turn letters into words. But there are some secret words I want to know how to spell so that I can paint the letters that make the words.”

“So you already have words you want to make and you won’t tell me what they are because they are secret?”

“Yes. That’s right.”

“And you want me to spell them for you anyway? Without knowing what they are? That seems impossible.”

“I know,” she said, rocking back and forth quite happily. “I have secret words.”

“If I’m not able to make it work out with the typewriter, if that turns out to be impossible too, will you still love me?”

“What kind of question is that?” she asked.

“Well sometimes people are that way. When you can’t give them what they want, they don’t love you any more.”

“People are very confusing.”

“I know.”

“That’s not the way chickens are. If we love someone, we love someone. Forever.”

“That is a nice word. ‘Forever.’ I like that word.”

“It is one of the words I want to paint.” Then she realized she had let one of her secret words slip out.

“I am sure it is. Just like ‘Amelia’ and ‘Friend’ are special to you. Will you tell me a little more about ‘Forever’?”

“Not now. It will be in Amelia’s poem and in my painting.”

“That’s fine. Words really are like magical pictures, and anticipation can be so much fun.”

Emily blushed.

“Wait! That’s one of your secret words too, isn’t it? Anticipation!”

She flew down from her perch giving me her happiest chittering ever.

Magic Pictures

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated! This particular post has gone through several revisions for story and illustration, even after posting. Thanks for reading!

My Life With Gracie…Waiting For Autumn

Waiting For Autumn

We are waiting for early autumn. We are waiting to let go. My chickens and I, we have things to release, and early autumn is the best time to begin.

Soon the summer heat will have passed, and cooler breezes will blow against their feathers and against my shirt.

The days are already getting shorter. Gracie and the others need a flashlight in the early morning to find their way safely down their chicken ladder. The sunset is coming sooner and stealing greater bites of our precious time together in the evenings.

But even so, we are waiting, somewhat impatiently, for early autumn.

It is the season to end all that we had tried to start, but failed. It lets us begin the forgetting process so that we can push on towards the cold blankness of winter and then on towards the warm promise of spring.

Early Autumn lets us begin the important forgiving process because often we must gently forgive ourselves for failing, even failing again and again.

Sometimes we must forgive ourselves for choosing the wrong hopes and dreams.

Sometimes we must forgive ourselves for choosing the wrong time for the right hopes and dreams.

Sometimes we must forgive ourselves for not having enough hope, not having enough faith…or just not having.

Sometimes we must forgive ourselves for not wanting to let go of those precious hopes and dreams that did sprout and grow and bear Summer’s fruit…but they were only meant for a season, just one season.

That may be the most difficult kind of forgiving to do.

Then will come Winter when our new hopes and dreams have a chance to incubate. In the darkness of Winter we cover our heads for warmth. With our eyes closed, we shut out the cold and then we dream of the world and the life we want for ourselves and those we love.

Finally will come Spring when we have a new chance to do again what we had tried and failed to do. Spring is a time when we can try to make the things we love fit into our lives one more time. We never give up hope.

But first we must wait for Autumn to have its turn at touching our lives. Autumn’s ground of death and decay lays the moist, rich foundation for our next ambitious attempts at new growth.

There really is a season for everything…and that does include a season for letting go.

My Life With Gracie taught me to gladly let go of what was meant to last for only a season anyway.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!