Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. — Proverbs 13:12
What happens to a dream deferred?
— Langston Hughes
Here in my heart there’s a dream that’s unbroken
And it gets in my way, but it won’t be denied…
— Chicago (the band)
Once upon a couch, I was home watching the pregame show before Game 5 of the 2000 World Series — the Mets-Yankees Subway Series. But I fell asleep moments before the first pitch, and soon I started to dream…
… At this outlandish nighttime parade, my eyes have been fixed on the first float, the one bearing the scrawled numbers 9/11 — which, as I’ve come to see, refers to an event that will supposedly occur on September 11, 2001.
The parade stopped soon after it began, when the 9/11 float was directly in front of me here on Broadway in the Canyon of Heroes. I’ve watched video on a gargantuan screen that was on this grotesque float: images of planes crashing into the Twin Towers, which became towering infernos. But then the screen disappeared, and as I peered into the darkness across lower Manhattan, I saw the Towers collapse as if they were made with a diabolical erector set. The skyscrapers imploded in a maniacal rush of severed steel and fractured concrete and shattered glass.
So now, adjacent to New York City’s Canyon of Heroes, the Crater of Broken Hearts, the Chasm of Crippled Hope. An unplanned cemetery and a makeshift memorial, right next door to the roadway where the renowned living have been honored with parades for decades.
As I ponder this, a parachutist descends and lands on the 9/11 float … it appears to be Denis Leary, the actor and comedian. When he unhooks his parachute gear, I can see he’s wearing a firefighter’s jacket emblazoned with the words “Rescue Me.” Behind him is a two-story building that seems to be a firehouse — I hadn’t noticed it before — and both garage doors are wide open. The garage bays are full of a cavernous emptiness. The fire trucks are out on call, apparently. Then it hits me: They must have gone to the Twin Towers.
Now I see a newspaper, floating in the air in front of Leary and to his right, too far away for me to see. Yet somehow I can read this headline: “Final episode of ‘Rescue Me’ to air tonight.” The date on the post: September 7, 2011.
As I read the headline silently, Leary says softly, “It’s really a hole that never goes away.”
Another voice — whose, I’m not sure, and from where, I can’t tell — echoes Leary’s last word: “away” … in a mocking tone, it seems, and again, “away” … now the voice sounds menacing … and a third time, viciously, “away!”
A rushing wind carrying thick dust and debris sweeps across the 9/11 parade float, and before I can react, it envelops me. I instinctively shut my eyes for protection — and without warning, the powerful wind sweeps me up, off the sidewalk! Opening my eyes, I can’t see anything in the hazy dust cloud, but I sense that I’m rising rather than falling, as I did earlier from the top of the Empire State Building. That recollection relieves my anxiety briefly — I somehow landed safely on a pole vaulter’s cushion here on Broadway — yet I’m still … terrified.
This vast dust cloud, I surmise, is the last exhaled breath of the dying Twin Towers. I don’t know why its spread was delayed, since the towers imploded some time earlier.
As I continue to ascend in the obscured night sky, something flies past me in a blur. What was that? Or who was that?
I hear the voice again, with the same mocking, menacing tone — and this time I discern that it’s distinctly a woman’s voice: “Away!” As I keep rising, the dust cloud is slowly receding and the sky becomes clearer. She rushes toward me again, and now I can see the unmistakable form of someone with a greenish face, a pointed black hat and a black robe covering all but her green hands — yes, it must be: the Wicked Witch of The West, flying on her broomstick, far from the merry old land of Oz.
“Away!” she cries. “Away, I say!” As she rushes past me, I’m swirled around in midair and a vortex pushes me higher in the night sky. I’m caught in a mini-tornado. Soaring west, the Wicked Witch glares down at Manhattan and shrieks, “I’ll get you, my city — and your little god too!” (Or she may have meant uppercase “God” — tough to tell.)
Then she turns her hideous head back toward me and screams once more, “Away!” As she speaks that one word, a forceful gale issues from her mouth and I spin and catapult and tumble uncontrollably, rising even farther above the city.
As quickly as I rose into the sky, I begin to descend — I’m plummeting in a free fall far more terrifying than the ascent, with no guarantee of a cushioned landing this time. The asphalt is rushing at me like an angry pit bull.
But just as I brace for impact, choking on my regrets, another voice calls out — “Hey! What ya got here that’s worth livin’ for?” — and a different gust of wind forcefully catches hold of me, propelling my still-airborne body west. In a flash I’ve regained altitude and jetted across the Hudson River, passing the Wicked Witch as if she’s on a bicycle to my Volvo S60, and I cross over the Jersey state line (airspace-wise, that is). I look down, half-expecting to see a “barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge” … but no, apparently this dream doesn’t include Springsteen’s “Jungleland” coming to life.
The owner of the other voice, who has apparently saved me from a fatal descent onto a lower Manhattan street, speaks again: “And hey, what about a parade for me?”
I look to my left and there, soaring beside me, is Miracle Max!
My previous parade-going companion, of “The Princess Bride” fame, has returned in style.
“That was a close call, kid,” he tells me (as if I didn’t know). “I’ve dealt with some witches in my neck of the woods. But oh my, the bad breath on that one — I was about to lose my lunch. And you were about to lose a lot more than that. Glad I showed up when I did. Hey, they don’t call me Miracle Max for nothin’!”
“Thanks, Max — impeccable timing,” I reply. “But where did you go before? We were at the parade together, and then you vanished.”
“Listen, I can’t give away my secrets,” Max says. “I gotta make a living, you know — if I told you how I disappeared so quickly and quietly, maybe you’ll put out a shingle as a Miracle Man, and then what happens to me? I’ll tell you what — I’m on the unemployment line faster than you can say Prince Humperdinck. And he’s how I got fired in the first place.”
“Yes, I remember — I’m a big fan of ‘The Princess Bride,’” I say. “But I don’t need to know how you disappeared — I’d just like to know where you went.”
“OK, fair enough: I went to look for the mayor of New York.”
“Why the mayor? Did you find him?”
“So many questions!” Max says. “No, I did not find him, and if you must know, I wanted to tell him to throw a parade for me in the Canyon of Heroes. ‘Hero’ is my middle name— just ask that Westley kid I brought back to life.”
Miracle Max’s lined face and white hair are illumined by the light of a half-moon, which I can see clearly now that I’m free of the horrific dust cloud. As we keep gliding on this mini-jet stream that’s carrying us west high above New Jersey, I’m overcome with emotion in the wake of my near-death experience — and the tears flow.
Glancing at me, Max says, “What’s the matter?”
“Just … thank you, Max — thank you.”
“Don’t mention it, kid. All in a day’s work.”
“So Max, I can’t help but notice that we’re still, you know, up here in the sky.”
“Can’t put anything past you, pal,” Max says.
As I gaze at the stars — there’s Orion — I ask: “Where are we going?”
“Again with the questions,” Max says good-naturedly (sort of). “I heard there’s an airplane over Pennsylvania that needs help, so that’s where we’re going — to Flight 93.”
To be continued …
© Bruce William Deckert 2015